AN expert in elderly care is calling for an overhaul of housing policy to create US-style retirement villages across Scotland.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, the architect of the Scottish Government's flagship free personal care deal for pensioners, said a rethink was required over acommodation needed for an ageing population to avoid spiralling costs.
Lord Sutherland, a former principal of Edinburgh University, also expressed concern ministers had "taken their eye off the ball" in the last year when it came to integrating NHS and social care services for the elderly.
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Lord Sutherland said: "Scotland's housing policy needs radical reform. Look at the changing population needs. If we do not have reforms we will have a growing problem of how to provide enough care for older people that becomes more and more expensive.
"If you get housing right, you can do something more about rehabilitation and preventing people from going into expensive care homes." The number of people aged 65 and over living in Scotland is predicted to increase by 59 per cent to 1.47 million by 2037.
Lord Sutherland said the UK and Scotland had a big problem as there are not enough suitable houses. While the focus might be on finding ways to help younger and single people onto the property ladder, he said future planning of the housing stock had to go further.
He referred to retirement villages which provide community and care facilities in the US and also cited Hartrigg Oaks, in York, which was set up by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust.
It is a community of 152 bungalows where "home help" services such as dressing and meal preparation are available as well as a care home, which can look after people while they recover if they become unwell. It also has a gym where a physiotherapist provides exercise plans.
John Hocking, executive director of the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, said the scheme reduced health issues, addressed loneliness and removed uncertainty about what would happen to people if their health failed.
A mini-town including 300 retirement homes, a care home, restaurant and gym is planned for East Renfrewshire and work has started on a retirement village in Mordun, Edinburgh, offering 54 apartments to the over-60s.
Lord Sutherland said such accommodation should be more widespread. He said: "If we are able to provide older people with attractive alternatives, they would get out of the houses they are in. That would change the availability of housing."
However, he praised Scotland for doing more than England to prepare for the growing elderly population.
Health Secretary Alex Neil faced questions in Holyrood from Jim Hume, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, yesterday about frail patients waiting months for rehabilitation services intended to help them live independently after revelations in The Herald.
Neil Findlay, Scottish Labour spokesman, also described the social care system as brokenafter The Herald revealed the management of 100 home care services had been rated adequate or below by official inspectors.
The Herald is running a series of articles on community care this week as part of our NHS Time for Action campaign, which is calling for a review of NHS and social care capacity.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We are committed to ensuring that housing provision in Scotland should be accessible and adaptable and meet the needs of older people."
She added: "Age, Home and Community is our 10 year national strategy for Scotland's older people."
She also said councils and health boards were working on plans to integrate care services.