Ageing on your own terms

Dr Bill Thomas, Evermore
12/03/18

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For more than 20 years I have done my level best to reform and
re-invent nursing homes, first through the “Eden Alternative” and then
through the “Green House” model. However, I’ve come to realise the
sector isn’t really going to change.

So I’ve decided to make it so people don’t need nursing homes in the
first place. Before I can do this, I need to answer the simplest and
most important question:

“What do people really want?”

The answer is pretty simple really. What people of all ages and
situations want most is to live life on their own terms. To live where
and how they want.  

And for most people, the point at which they fail to live life on their own terms comes down to the same thing — housing.

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Tens of millions of people of all ages will find their houses, and
housing stock in general, to be too big, too expensive and too hard to
maintain. For younger people, these barriers can prevent them from
owning a home of their own. For older people, sustaining a big unwieldy
house can be the thing that tips the scale from independence to
dependence.  

I’ve decided to follow the example of Goldilocks and develop a new
approach to housing that isn’t too big, or too small.  I wanted to
create a house that would be “just right” for millions of people.

I used my time in Japan and my study of its architecture to inspire a
new kind of house, a compact, digitally native, modular, panelized
house that is both affordable and easy to live in. It seemed right to
call this model the “Minka” because that is the Japanese word for “a
house for regular people.”

With backing from Mainstreet Investments (opens new window), I worked with BUILDlab (opens new window) architect
David Bosworth to create a system of interchangeable house parts that
can be combined and re-combined to give people just the house they want
and need. We have leveraged the latest advances in digital design tools,
robotics, and construction materials to minimize cost (for example, by
dramatically minimizing waste and rapidly accelerating completion time)
and maximize customization.

Better. Faster. Cheaper.

We love the fact that a Minka can be exquisitely designed, rapidly
“printed,” packed into a cargo container, shipped and assembled
anywhere– in the world.

Our goal is to make the Minka available to people everywhere and be
amazed by the way our customers use Minkas to foster independence and
wellbeing for themselves and the people they love. Bearing in mind, the
best kind of independence is the kind that lets us be independent—
together.

The beauty of Minka is that it can be adapted to suit different age
groups so we can create multi-generational communities. This will help
stop the segregation and isolation of older people who don’t want to
find themselves living in facilities that include only the old and
disabled.

Now Minka isn’t the solution to the challenges facing the UK’s health
and social care sectors. But what it does demonstrate is the importance
of listening and responding to customer needs, and the capacity to
provide diversity in housing.

I’m really excited to be joining the Housing LIN’s IdeasFest this month, and to be part of the conversation about providing older
people with different housing options in later life that supports their
personal goals, as well as their health and wellbeing.

As a geriatrician and also a father, I want a brighter future for
everyone where ageing is about love, growth and possibility. And where
people can age on their own terms.

“the best kind of independence is the kind that lets us be independent— together”

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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