Almshouses are the oldest form of social housing. Originating over 1,000 years ago as a means of helping societies’ most vulnerable people, they now play an important role in housing over 36,000 older people and families in over 2,600 locations across Britain. Modern day almshouses provide an affordable living option often specifically designed with an older person in mind. Residents pay a maintenance contribution, which is usually less than the average rent for local properties managed by a council, housing association or private landlord.
With scientific advancements allowing us to live longer, the need for housing options that facilitate the way older adults live has become increasingly more important. Almshouses have evolved into a valuable option for accommodation in modern times and studies have highlighted significant advantages, including the increase of life expectancy by two and a half years.
Research from the Almshouse Longevity Study suggests that living in an almshouse community can alleviate the negative impacts on health and social wellbeing commonly experienced by older people, particularly those living in isolation.
What are the key advantages of almshouses?
One of the most significant advantages of living in an almshouse is the sense of community they foster. Often situated in serene and supportive environments, they create a close-knit community of like-minded individuals who share similar life experiences. With loneliness and social isolation being two of the most common issues faced by this age group, access to a supportive community can reduce the risk of adverse health effects linked to depression and poor mental health.
Almshouses often have communal spaces to socialise in and activities on offer. At St John’s, we have a vibrant Activities Programme featuring a range of classes that encourage residents to prioritise their physical health as well as facilitating the building of strong friendships with other residents and people within the wider community.
Islay, a St John’s resident who has lived at our Combe Park location, shared her experiences living in an almshouse and discussed the benefits of making friends and staying active. She said:
“I’ve lived at St John’s for over five years. Anybody of my age will know how difficult it is to make friends. Here that is not the case – you meet them every week at coffee morning.
“We have Pilates classes, which are brilliant. We have a fitness class, sewing classes, craft classes, the number of things you can do is amazing, if you want to. You just run your own life and live totally independently in your home. I love it here – I wish I had come sooner.”
Geraldine, a resident who lives at our City Centre site echoes the support and friendly atmosphere:
“Everyone is lovely here. Residents are lovely, the staff are absolutely excellent – they all do whatever they can for you, they’re always there if you need them. It’s social and you can do whatever group you want, ballet or whatever you fancy. I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone.”
One of the common fears among older people is the loss of independence and dignity as they age. Almshouses actively work to combat this fear by creating an environment that empowers residents to make their own choices and live life on their terms. With appropriate support such as St John’s advice service, technology workshops and pastoral care, older individuals can maintain their independence for longer, enhancing their overall well-being and quality of life.
At St John’s, we’re proud to provide almshouses that give residents a sense of belonging while addressing the struggles of loneliness and poor wellbeing and instead promote good living, independence and community. .
Find out more about our Almshouse offering here.