Oct 15, 2018

All Aboard? How the Aged Care Housing Crisis is Anything But Smooth Sailing

Forget Captain Columbus and James Cook, the new band of explorers to sail the high seas could be seniors and low-income earners.

With record costs for residential aged care being reached around the globe, experts predict a looming aged care housing affordability crisis. Additional to seniors, low-income, immigrants and the homeless persons are all facing the fear, vulnerability and health consequences that housing unaffordability is bringing.

The issue is a significant one. How can those who are most vulnerable in our society, and usually have the least resources, survive obscene costs to housing and living?

An unusual solution is being explored to tackle housing crisis. And it’s still all about location, location, location. Bobbing over water that is.

Learning The Ropes

Kenneth Capron from Portland, Maine, wants to take a decommissioned cruise ship and turn it into a viable economic solution to the housing crisis affecting millions.  

Capron is seeking a grant to fund his research into the feasibility of docking a cruise ship portside to serve as a viable housing option.

His analysis would consider purchase price, refurbishing costs and how it could be a home for those who lived onboard.

Capron is pursuing having medical staff onboard to assist with medical issue and needs.


Smooth Sailing

There have been previous instances of nautical solutions to a housing crisis. In the late 80’s hundreds of people found themselves homeless after the colossal earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area. The then mayor, Art Agnos, eventually found temporary homes for them aboard the USS Peleliu.

Both the mayor, the Admiral who offered his vessel, and those aboard found the solution to be a success. Yet, in acknowledging the contextual circumstances of the situation, whereby most onboard did not need constant monitoring or medical attention, questions remain as to the viability of boat living for seniors.

Rocking The Boat

Sofia Borges, director of the Martin Architecture and Design Workshop raises her concerns around the vulnerable living aboard a boat. “People could languish there, [it is] a recipe for failure.”

Florida State University Professor Hill Pable adds that “Ships have a dark and somewhat frightening history of being used to sequester and house people.” When it comes to our seniors, more needs to be done to bring their value, presence and contributions to the forefront of society’s minds and lives, not the opposite.


The Cruise Ship Option

Other sources are coming forward with their nautical solution to the housing crisis. Multiple cruise liner companies have started to outfit their vessels for long term residents. Many seniors have chosen to spend their retirement years aboard a cruise liner, citing comfort, entertainment and safety as the reasons that brought them aboard.

Yet multiple issues remain. Will health care packages and insurance companies cover a life at sea? Will health care costs be at affordable rates for those that choose the nautical life? How will medical emergencies be approached? How will seniors regularly see their families and loved ones?

While many companies are angling themselves to be solutions to retirement, the important distinction is that most cruise ship vessels are not yet capable of offering the same level of medical and basic care that residential aged care centres do. Herein lies the problem. Until cruise ships can provide round the clock medical and basic care, at a price point that is affordable for seniors, they are not a viable option to tackle the aged care housing crisis.


Costs Remain

While a few seniors have chosen a life on the high seas, one element remains to clog the engine. Cost.

Allan Roth, a Colorado-based financial analyst says that “You’re not going to do this because it’s economical. It’s because it’s a lifestyle you want.”

Which leads us back to port. How can our elderly, particularly with low funds, seek a viable and safe end-of-life residence? Much is still needed in this area from government and society at large.

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