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Younger people with disability deserve options outside residential aged care

Summer Housing blog

25-year old Shanais is thriving in her own Summer Housing apartment

Oh, to be young!

When we think of what it means to be young we often think about freedom, excitement, choice and dreams. But for the thousands of younger people in residential aged care in Australia life can be boring, lonely and unfulfilling.

Studies have shown that younger people with disability and complex care needs in residential aged care have high rates of depression and half of them receive a visit from a friend less than once per year. It’s a far cry from the social connectedness we often associate with younger people.

Nearly 6,000 people under 65 are living in residential aged care across Australia right now. In 2018, close to 200 people under 45 were living in aged care facilities. Many of those younger people in aged care have families, including partners and children.

Most of them didn’t choose to live in residential aged care. They found themselves there because they have complex care needs and there just isn’t anywhere else for them to go.

We don’t believe this is acceptable, and we’re trying to do something about it. Thankfully, the Federal Government is also starting to move towards finding better options for young people with complex care needs, pledging to support younger people to find other suitable accommodation, if that’s what they want, and working to halve the number of younger people entering aged care.

Aged care is great – but not for everyone

Residential aged care includes nursing homes and other longer-term aged care facilities. It’s primarily designed for older people who can no longer live independently at home, and most people who move into these facilities do so in their 80s. These facilities are very much geared towards the needs of ageing people. In general, they are not well set up to meet the very different needs and wishes of younger people, especially around social interaction and being part of the community.

Residential aged care services are critical and many residents are very happy living there – including some younger people who do find it a good option. But for too many younger people, it’s the only option, and that’s not right.

For those individuals, it is often not financially viable to customise their own home to meet their needs and they can’t find suitably appointed housing options in their area, so they run out of choices.

We’re here to change that.

Building change. Changing lives

Younger people with disability should have the choice to live in a home that meets their needs and allows them to continue to actively participate in the community, and to build and maintain relationships with family and friends.

Our mission is to expand the range of housing options for younger people in aged care or other unsuitable situations – those stuck in hospital looking for an appropriate place to live on discharge or even people who are at home without the right support and equipment.

We believe people with disability of all ages should have a wide choice of housing options.

Summer Housing’s model brings accessible and affordable housing and support together with smart home technology to give individuals greater choice and control over how they live. Our apartments are in mainstream developments. Tenants are able to engage with their own chosen supports to provide them with the day-to-day supports. There is also an additional apartment onsite where a 24-hour emergency support provider. This support is shared between all the tenants to allow supports to be available whenever it may be required.

Smart home technology enables tenants with significant disabilities to use a smart phone or tablet to open doors, open and close blinds, control the temperature and light switches, while communications technology enables tenants to contact the onsite staff when they need help.

This innovative approach means tenants can maximise their independence and privacy while still having access to support when they need it.

Meet Shanais

 For 25-year-old Shanais, independence is all about choice.

Shanais has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Type 2). She used to think that independent living for her would mean living in a home and having carers coming shift by shift, 24 hours a day.

With Summer Housing, she’s been able to do much better, achieving what she has always hoped for – what she describes as a “normal lifestyle”.

Shanais made the move from country NSW to inner city Melbourne in 2019 and counts proximity to trains, shops and a dog-friendly park as among the things she loves most about her accessible apartment.

But it’s that balance of independent living and support that gives Shanais and her family, peace of mind.

“I can come home from work and know that I have my support workers there when I need them to assist me, but I also have privacy and quiet time when I need it. That’s real independence!”

For more about how Summer Housing is helping young people live the lives they want to, or to see if one of our apartments could be right for you or a loved one, visit

Want to know more about Shanais’ journey?