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TX: 18.01.08 - Alternatives to Care

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE AND PETER WHITE
Downloaded from www.bbc.co.uk/radio4
THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.


WAITE
Up until now in our ongoing series on care in the UK we've concentrated on the most orthodox solutions, like coping in your own home with help from social services or moving in with your family or some form of sheltered or residential care but there are all sorts of what you might call unorthodox alternatives, particularly if you have a bit of financial room for manoeuvre, for instance could this option be about to make a comeback?

CLIP FROM FAWLTY TOWERS

WHITE
And Fawlty Towers resident the Major was by no means just a joke creation. Living in a hotel was quite a recognisable social phenomenon at one time, as Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, recalls.

COTTON
We had at the luxury end people who chose to live in Grosvenor House on a permanent basis, to have all their needs taken care of, right through to hotels in seaside resorts, in those days, Bridlington, Scarborough, Blackpool.

WHITE
And what kind of people were the permanent residents in what you might call the lower end of the market?

COTTON
They tended to be elderly people, often people who were left on their own so their partner had died and they had no supporting family, so they actually - one, it was a semi-social reason that they wanted to have company; two, is they wanted, as it were, someone to take care of them and it also made good economic sense because they got an extremely good deal for being there in the closed season.

WHITE
And for some people other than residential care it was virtually the only alternative. Anthea Tinker is professor of social gerontology at King's College, London.

TINKER
As far as we know some people who chose boarding houses were often single people - people who've never married - and don't forget in the last century a lot of people were unmarried - they were spinsters or widows - and so they might choose it as an option or people who've lived in tied accommodation, such as nurses, matrons who really didn't have a home of their own and therefore needed somewhere in old age.

WHITE
But the recent reports of the couple in their seventies who chose to live permanently at a Travelodge Hotel because they were saved many of the chores of life which become more arduous as you get older, rather captured the public's imagination. And it turns out they're not unique.

Hello, come to see Mr Aimley - Russell Aimley. Thank you very much.

Russell Aimley now in his early 80s has been living at the Burlington Hotel at Folkstone for the past 10 years, I asked him why he'd chosen to live in a hotel.

AIMLEY
I wanted to have proper attention, which I get here, everything is catered for me and they're all extremely pleasant, extremely kind, I couldn't do better.

WHITE
So what kind of things didn't you want to bother with anymore as it were?

AIMLEY
Laundry, sewing and all the rest of it - shopping, which is another chore which I could do without.

WHITE
Did you look at houses at all down here?

AIMLEY
No, no, no I never - it entered my mind, it was going to be a hotel right from the beginning.

WHITE
Tell me a bit more about the care you receive here.

AIMLEY
Well I get all my laundry done, my room's serviced everyday, I get good food here.

WHITE
And what about making it like a home, as it were, in terms of having all your own things?

AIMLEY
Well I mean I've got my own television which I brought from London, otherwise everything's provided by the hotel.

WHITE
I was thinking of the things that personalise it, that make it a home, I mean have you got pictures of your own that sort of thing?

AIMLEY
I've got a few pictures, yes, of the family, you can't have too much living in a hotel room can you.

WHITE
Did you ever have any - have any doubts about it or did you ever think at any point oh I wonder if I've done the right thing?

AIMLEY
No, I did not, most certainly didn't. I can see now what a wonderful decision it was of mine, when I read about these terrible homes they put people in and the way they're treated.

MANAGER
To me it makes considerable sense, not as a hotelier but as a private person with regard to comfort, with regard to atmosphere and service I think a hotel is competing directly with a residential home.

WHITE
Clearly as people grow older there are health issues what do you see as the hotel's responsibility as far as that's concerned?

MANAGER
Well I don't think there is more responsibility than any other guest, you know. You can have holiday makers here for two months and the risk is the same.

WHITE
Russell Aimley, some people would think hotels - all very well - nice to come for a long weekend, maybe a month, but for the whole of life?

AIMLEY
If necessary, yes.

WHITE
Do you feel you're missing anything by not having your own home as it were?

AIMLEY
No, certainly not, I could have stayed where I was if I had wanted to but I didn't want it.

WHITE
Russell, quite reasonably, didn't want to discuss his personal finances with us, except to say that it made perfect economic sense. But Bob Cotton, of the British Hospitality Association, agrees that it could be a sound financial proposition.

COTTON
It's because one the cost of buying property nowadays and all that goes with not just buying a property but maintaining a property - maintenance and all the needs of servicing that - compared to in, shall we say, a budget hotel where you can get a very good deal which might be as little as £20 a night or on a permanent basis an even better deal than that.

WHITE
And in care terms what might you get for that?

COTTON
Well you get your food when you want it perhaps, your service when you want it.

WHITE
What's the attitude of hoteliers and guest house owners to this kind of customer?

COTTON
They absolutely love them because what you find is permanent guests almost become part of enlarged family with the staff, you know everything about each other. It makes good business for both sides, that is why it works, it makes - it's good value for the people who want to live permanently but for the hotel the best thing for a hotel is to run a 100% full every night of the year and it's very rare that you are running 100% full, so to be able to have permanent occupants is great business.

WHITE
And some people are even more adventurous than Folkstone. According to Age Concern more people are choosing to spend their later years abroad, particularly in Southern Europe and if necessary use local care facilities. Anna Garrett of Age Concern's International Unit has been coordinating a survey of older people choosing to live overseas.

GARRETT
Commonly there's been a misconception that retirees abroad are healthy and wealthy if you like and what we're seeing is that that's changing. A lot of people are retiring abroad because they feel that there'll be health benefits to that and that their pension or the money that they do have will go further. It's very popular to retire abroad to join families, so family are obviously a big source of care there. Some people are retiring abroad because care is cheaper in the country that they choose to retire to.

WHITE
But according to Sheila Culls, who runs an advice line for the Elderly Accommodation Council, it's not a course to be entered on without a good deal of careful thought and research.

CULLS
If somebody came to us considering going abroad we would encourage them to think not just about the finances and the attraction of the better weather but also about their social and emotional needs, their ability to read local papers or watch local television, to have visits from friends and family and also about their care issues, whether their care could be adequately reviewed, what they would do if there was a problem or they wished to make a complaint or if they needed advocacy for [indistinct words]. People in care homes generally look for care homes near friends and family and obviously much as they may like to visit Spain won't be popping in and out or making the minor purchases - many people in care homes ask relatives and friends to get for them, anything from toothpaste to a new pair of stockings or something. The other thing to consider obviously is the issue of language, unless all the care staff speak English in this case, or the language of the person being cared for, there can be communication problems, it can make you socially isolated.

WHITE
But of course where there's a need an entrepreneur to satisfy it will never be far behind. Some countries in Northern Europe, such as Norway, are setting up state funded residential care facilities in Spain for some of its nationals. And according to Anna Garrett Britain too is dipping its toe in the Mediterranean waters.

GARRETT
There are companies who are establishing retirement villages and care homes for older nationals and they are marketing them at this group of people.

WHITE
I mean are they marketing them specifically at the British market?

GARRETT
Yeah, I mean there are some that you'll see that will advertise British leisure pursuits or traditionally British leisure pursuits or the fact that you can receive British television.

WHITE
And there's one more strategy which admittedly does need a bit of cash but we in Britain do tomorrow what America does today, what about cruising? We talked to one American 80 year old who reckons she spends around 10 months of each year cruising because it works out cheaper for her. And according to Caroline Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Cruise Critic, it's catching on.

SPENCER BROWN
I think it has happened in very sort of individual cases, there's no documented trend for it. And I think it's under the radar a little bit but I think if you're creative and you want to do it it's a great option.

WHITE
Thinking specifically of people with some care needs, how does it work out economically, I mean are we just thinking of this as an option for the super rich?

SPENCER BROWN
It's absolutely not and in fact the news went around the United States last year that it was actually cheaper for a moderately healthy person, moderately active person, to live on a cruise ship than in a retirement community. And the cruise lines were aghast because they don't want to turn into floating retirement communities, they can't handle the health requirements. And serious medical issues - you shouldn't really consider this as a long term option. But if you have just sort of low running standard things that you need in terms of your care there is a hospital on board most ships and otherwise think about it - you have - your meals are provided, your entertainment is provided, your cabin is cleaned twice a day - who gets that at home?

ROBINSON
That was Caroline Spencer Brown ending Peter's report. And we've already had an e-mail about it from Caroline Howlett, she says: The only memory I have of my great granny was of going to see her in her suite at a hotel in Lytham St Anne's. She was a widow of certain means with three or four sons and I think that back then, in the late 1960s, it gave a certain sort of cache.

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