An All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) inquiry is making the case for housing and care options in the countryside following new statistics on the need for more specialist homes.
New research from the Local Government Association (LGA)) has found an extra 400,000 specialist homes are needed to house older people across Britain within the next 20 years.
Lord Richard Best, co-chair of the APPG and the inquiry, said: “The statistics released by the LGA are a striking realisation that this inquiry is crucial now more than ever to ensure we get housing options right for rural Britain’s ageing population.
“The nation’s villages are getting older every year, as young people and families leave and the proportion of older people increases. A quarter of the 11.4 million people living in predominantly rural areas are now over 65-years old – that’s 2.8 million people.
“It is still early days but the inquiry is making good progress and taking evidence from a range of specialist organisations and housing providers to help us formulate robust policy recommendations. We would still be delighted to hear from anyone with views on the solutions to this urgent issue.”
Sue Chalkley, chief executive of leading rural housing association Hastoe, said: “Older people in rural areas face very specific challenges and it is crucial that the correct kind of housing and support is available in their communities, so that they do not have to decide between living in inappropriate accommodation or moving far away from all their family and friends in later life.
“The closure of important rural facilities such as post offices, shops and pubs is irreversible and is having a grave effect for older people. It is exacerbated further by poor rural connectivity and public transport links, as well as limited access to support and social care as council funds become tighter and tighter.
“This inquiry is important as it recognises that we need homes which are both affordable and suitable for people’s whole lifetimes. Fundamentally, we need a much more diverse range of housing types and tenures available to older people across the countryside.”
With one in five of the overall population in England set to be over 65 in a decade, the LGA has called for a ‘residential revolution’ to provide more homes that support an ageing population.
Only 0.6% of over-65s live in specialised accommodation, with a form of care support such as 24/7 on-site staff.
This is 10 times less than in more developed retirement housing markets such as the USA or Australia.
According to LGA analysis, the number of specialist homes for older people will need to increase by 75% by 2035.
The LGA said at least 80% of the homes we will inhabit in 2050 have already been built, so it is crucial that councils have sufficient funding to adapt existing housing.
Council leaders warn of a chronic under-supply of desirable, affordable and ‘age-friendly’ homes with enough space for older people to get around, and the ability for easy adaptations to be made, to cope with care needs – leaving retirees wanting to ‘right-size’ to more manageable accommodation unable to do so.
The LGA is calling for the government to help support a ‘residential revolution’ for older people’s housing by giving councils the tools to deliver more housing that supports positive and healthy ageing.
This includes planning powers to ensure developers build quality homes and infrastructure that are well designed to support positive ageing and long term sustainable funding for councils to adapt existing homes to help support older people remain in their homes for longer and to support positive ageing.
Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said: “England will have 14.7 million over-65s by 2025, compared with 11.7 million today. This population shift looks set to continue.
“Our ageing population means that older people are an increasingly crucial part of our housing market. They now live in a third of all homes, and this is set to increase. Delivering quality housing that meets the needs of these older people is essential.
“Councils across the country are innovating when it comes to delivering housing for older people – from building new homes which are attractive to older people wanting to ‘right-size’, to ensuring housing is at the heart of integrated care.
“However, councils cannot tackle this issue alone. Support from government, which incentivises housebuilding and provides councils with the funding and resources they need, is crucial to our efforts to support positive ageing.”