A Kelso community councillor wants the town’s soon-to-be-vacant high school to be turned from a seat of learning into a retirement village.
While Scottish Borders Council have the school site earmarked for affordable housing, Colin McGrath believes that is not where the real priorities lie for Kelso.
He has written a paper on the integration of NHS and social services, in which he proposes a new model of retirement village, with various levels of care.
He said: “There is too much emphasis on affordable housing at the moment.
“The Cheviot forum area, which has the largest population of the elderly in the Borders.
“The old people will not go away. The timebomb is now fizzing.
“If our elderly are injured and end up in the Borders General Hospital, they may end up bed blocking, as their house may need to be adapted or a level of social care needs to be put in place before they can get home.
“A nursing home is not the answer – I have seen very active people going into these places soon become institutionalised as they lose their independence.
“If we had a retirement village – and in my mind the current Kelso High School is perfect for this – various levels of care between warden availability to total need can be under the same roof, and those in independent living quarters can visit those of their friends who are in need of more care.”
Mr McGrath pointed out that while the cost of keeping a “fit to be discharged” patient in the hospital is £316 per day, keeping a person alone in their own home with 20 hours care a week costs £349 a week.
He said: “I propose that the NHS transfers a significant portion of their funds currently used to pay for ‘bed blocking beds’ to the social services, which could be used to help the cost of temporary accomodation while a suitable home is being adapted.
“I realise that much more funding is needed to accommodate my vision of all elderly living with dignity, enjoying as near as possible an independent life. Much of the required funding can be offset by reusing NHS and local authority buildings, land and brown field sites.”
Mr McGrath added: “This is not just a Borders problem, it is nation-wide. But we can make this a model for the rest of the country to follow.”
A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council told us: “The council has engaged architects to produce a concept design report for the site and this will assist with identifying potential development opportunities and the marketing of the site.”