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Older people’s housing comes of age


  • Housing white paper recognises need for serious debate on housing for older people
  • Many older people wish to downsize but face acute shortage of suitable properties
  • Encouraging supply gives older people choice, frees up homes, and eases pressures on mid-life carers and social care services

Today’s housing white paper was characterised by incremental improvements. Perhaps the most significant development is the white paper’s clear and consistent focus on the housing needs of older people, says ARCO, the trade body for retirement communities.

Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said: “The housing white paper finally gives older people’s housing and support needs the attention they deserve. We welcome the government’s commitment to exploring ways of stimulating the market to deliver new homes for older people. This should free up homes for younger families wishing to trade up.

Retirement communities provide supportive environments and enable older people to live independently for longer. Increasing supply will also benefit the ‘sandwich generation’ caught between work or childcare commitments and caring for their older relatives. Taken together, these measures represent an important step in the right direction, towards a housing market fit for the future.”

Thirty-three per cent of over 60s would like to downsize if suitable properties were available, but many retirement communities (providing care and support) operate long waiting lists owing to shortage of supply.

The white paper spells out that planning authorities will need clear policies to meet the housing requirements of older people. In addition, the government has signalled its intention to explore ways to stimulate the market to deliver new homes for older people, including models of housing with support.

“The government has clearly recognised the need to increase housing supply for older people. We now need to move from conversation to construction, and start building homes that older people so desperately need,” said Michael Voges.



Notes to editors:

  1. Retirement communities, also known as housing-with-care or extra care developments, enable older people to buy or rent homes with access to on-site amenities and domiciliary care if needed.
  2. ARCO – Associated Retirement Community Operators –  has 28 members (both private and not-for-profit), who together make up 50% of the UK’s retirement community market. Please see http://arcouk.org/ and http://helptomove.org.uk/
  3. A Demos report found that 33% of over 60s would like to downsize if suitable retirement homes were available. If just half of those interested in downsizing were able to, 4 million older people could free up 3.5 million family sized homes. https://www.demos.co.uk/publications/topoftheladder
  4. Prevalence estimates of ‘sandwich caring’ vary but current indicators are that up to 10% of the population provide sandwich care. 84% of sandwich carers are women. Please see http://www.cpa.org.uk/information/reviews/CPA-Rapid-Review-Older-and-sandwich-generation-carers-and-the-impact-of-caring-review-and-references.pdf
  5. Research shows that residents in retirement communities experience better wellbeing and resilience than those in general needs housing. They are less likely to enter hospital and residential caring institutions, and overall likely to spend less time in hospital, compared to those in the community. See http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/index.php/publications/publication_details/establishing_the_extra_in_extra_care_perspectives_from_three_extra_care_hou and http://www.aston.ac.uk/lhs/research/centres-facilities/archa/extracare-project/
  6. Michael Voges is available for interview. Please contact Sarah Mindham on 020 3697 1204 ([email protected]) or Michael Voges on 07415 985 985.