Is there a new stage for elderly residences?

It seems that the Covid19 situation is becoming blurred. We are now far from “we will stop this virus all together”, the applause at 8pm in the windows [1], and funny videos which were trying to enliven us and to arouse a current that brings together wills and synergies to make us feel members, not only of the same species, but of the same human family.


However the “new normality” -for those who didn’t suffer the most painful part of this situation in the first line- consists in trying to reach the March 12th point as soon as possible in order to continue with our lives as "normalized" as possible.


And, in this road, the discussion, disagreement and confrontation have returned in many aspects of our social life. There are only few, very few topics on which there is a certain consensus without nuances. Maybe, one of those topics has been the issue about the elders and the situations happened in some elderly residences.


Curiously, the CoVid19 pandemic had been what has elevated the elderly issue to a social problem. Up to now this topic has been mainly a private question relating to families or individuals.


Not entering or making an assessment on the causes of the current family models, we are now far from those ‘Cuéntame’ [2] family types in which until three or even four generations of the same family were living together under the same roof. Today, there are many families who see the need of retirement homes to take care of their elders. And each family tries to make the best decision looking at the budget, services, closeness to home, opinions of relatives and friends and other factors, some of them very personal factors.


However the situation, experienced in several elderly residences in recent months, has shown us that something is not working well, even thought the intense work of many professionals that has gone beyond what it is required.


According to published data, "this type of social assistance has become a business and many of these elderly residences were public concessions, or were financed by public funds, but they were managed by national or multinational private companies and vulture funds control 75% of the centres. The business moves more than 4,5 billion euro annually, with a profit margin of around 25%.  In order to increase its profitability, large elderly residences (which are cheaper to manage) were built, and no care was taken to provide technical and human resources which have proved to be in deficit. These facts have been facilitated by the lack of control from administration, family members and the great existing demand which guarantees the occupation of the existing places (there is a structural deficit of around 100,000 places), regardless of the type of care provided".


The benefit is significant and it’s estimated between 20% and 25% and up to 50% in some cases. The demand is guaranteed as published population data published of these days shown.


According to 2019 data, there are 1,573 retirement homes of very varied public ownership like town halls, provincial councils, autonomous regions... There are also 3,844 elderly residences totally private or with concerted places. As society, one of the lessons learnt these days should be the review of management model of public and private elderly residences, the modification of social healthcare model to be efficient and the quality of life of elders.


Rethinking ageing and old age (especially the stereotypes we have about it) should be not only a personal but a social and institutional reflection. This is something we owe to "our grandparents", as a generation, because in order this problem to emerge and become visible in society, we have paid a very high price.


Luis Carlos Sanz
Justice and Peace Burgos Commission


[1] The first statement is a Spanish motto which has ben used during the confinement and the 8pm applause has been a dynamic made to thank the sanitary personnel their work.

[2] ‘Cuéntame’ is a Spanish tv show that reflects on the way of life of the Spanish society throughout the years.



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