Housing with care for older people in Northern Ireland 

The health care system in the UK is geared towards the curing of 'sickness'. By way of contrast this study begins with a phenomenological insight that revealed that whilst older people may consider themselves old, that is quite different to being sick. Such a misalignment becomes a problem at the point of “option recognition” when facing a move to a care home becomes a reality for some.   


Many of such older people have a life partner of many decades and many also have nearby family support. It is no surprise that moving to a care home is commonly reported as being deeply feared by older people as it seems to involve their extraction from many aspects of well-being – extraction from their home, from their partner, their family support network and a removal of control. Furthermore replacing such social care support by means of professional social care is expensive and too often unsatisfactory. Indeed since professional care is overwhelmingly provided by the public sector, the status quo in Northern Ireland is too often the mechanistic and expensive public provision of sub-par social support.

To date the researcher has completed the research through the eyes of older person participants and confirmed such an existential need for agency, control and self-determination. The next aspect of the research is to examine the structures of care in so far as they pertain to housing and the social care strategy via interviews with the power brokers of key organisations in the sector.

Proposed solution and research question

The researcher has designed and built a number of the pilots for models of housing with care whereby the principal physical solution is called the Pavilions Model of care. The key aspects of the Pavilions are that they are available to rent, have 24-hour support on hand and are clusters of 25-35 homes for older people along with common facilities located close to shops and parks. The Pavilions are a genuine option for older people and their life partner where the older person is at the point of “option recognition” when care home entry and losing control looms large. Presently in Northern Ireland no such option exists and the research asks the power brokers why not?

Research methods

The research methodology is phenomenological via 20 semi-structured interviews asking of power broker informants their views pertaining to social care in Northern Ireland, the role for housing therein, their organisation’s strategy in this context and what an overall strategy ought to be.

Action implications

The Pavilions physical and financial model is held up for consideration and physical and financial aspects of it are developed as a means of affording individual agency for older people and their partners and families within a social care structure embodied by their Pavilions home. As the research develops further testable theory will be induced for the future strategy for Northern Ireland housing with care. Induced theory in this way ultimately aims to contribute to improving the well-being outcomes for many older people in Northern Ireland.