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ARCO’s What Next? Conference Returns for A Second Successful Year

conference hallOn 10 and 11 May 2017 ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators) was delighted to hold their annual conference and knowledge exchange day – ‘What Next? 2017: A formative year for housing-with-care?’. After the sell-out success of last year’s inaugural event, this year’s conference returned with big ambitions, and had a fantastic outcome, expanding to bring together over 360 delegates, sponsors and exhibitors across the two days. There were a range of high-profile delegates from almost 200 organisations, including senior executives from extra care housing and retirement village operators, and representatives from the public sector, suppliers and investors with a growing interest in this expanding sector. The conference was supported by Gold Sponsors, Nicol Thomas and Carterwood, and Silver Sponsors Trowers & Hamlins, Castleoak, JLL and ENS.

This year’s speakers engaged with the most current trends, challenges and opportunities facing the sector, and shared their expertise and visions of the future of housing-with-care. The conference also saw the exclusive preview of new research from JLL on resale values of housing-with-care properties in retirement communities run by ARCO members, and from ProMatura on retirement community resident satisfaction undertaken in collaboration with ARCO.

The first day of the Conference on 10 May began with a highly enjoyable keynote presentation from Dr Hans Becker, Chairman of the Humanitas Foundation. This captured everyone’s imagination with a discussion of Humanitas’s ‘”Yes” Culture’, and facilitation of residents’ happiness.

ARCO’s Executive Director Michael Voges then joined Kyle Holling from Trowers & Hamlins to outline panel discussionrecent policy developments in the sector, replacing planned keynote addresses from the Housing Minister and Law Commissioner. Their late addition to the programme following the announcement of the general election emphasised the fast-paced nature of change, and they discussed potential policy priorities for the next government we will be electing on 8 June. A panel session by extra care providers looked in more detail at one of the biggest policy changes facing the sector: the proposals to cap rents and service charges in the extra care portion of the sector at Local Housing Allowance rates. They debated how the reform may shape the sector, and how extra care providers could respond to one of their biggest challenges yet.

The second keynote presentation by Professor Graham Stokes, Global Director of Dementia Care at Bupa, outlined the importance of understanding the dementia challenge in a global context. Skilfully weaving impactful statistics with moving personal stories, the presentation ensured that the individual impact on people with dementia and their families remained central to a discussion of how the sector should expand and adapt to be part of the solution to the crisis in dementia care.

Responses to a poll of conference delegates

Responses to a poll of conference delegates

A reoccurring theme throughout the day was the huge potential of new technologies within the retirement community setting, and as a response to the challenges of an ageing population. This was discussed in-depth in a presentation by Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly, from Bristol Robotics Lab, and PhD candidate Katie Winkle. A surprise appearance from Pepper the Robot demonstrated the potential use of robotics to assist with care, exercise and motivation. Delegates responded positively to the presentation, and an interactive poll found that 66% would prefer a robot to help with personal hygiene tasks t0 a paid carer.

In the next presentation Philip Schmid and Anthony Oldfield from JLL presented findings from their important new research on resale values within the retirement community sector. This found that for ARCO member schemes (which provide housing, care and support services, and where operators have an ongoing interest in maintaining a high level of service) resale values track house price inflation, and 80% of resales have risen in value. This was complemented by a case study by Nigel Sibley, Chief Executive of LifeCare Residences, which showed how ongoing operators such as LifeCare continually invest in their schemes over the long term and have a business interest in ensuring properties in their schemes rise in value.robot


Dr Margaret Wylde and Peter Robinson from ProMatura also presented on their new customer research, undertaken in collaboration with ARCO. They gave a preview of their findings from the largest UK survey of retirement community residents, providing a unique insight into the experiences, motivations and opinions of residents, and helping us better understand the market. Comparison with findings from US retirement communities provided a thought provoking discussion about what providers here are doing right, and how best to ensure residents feel ‘at home’.

The proggin bar 3ramme ended with a final presentation and panel discussion that investigated new models of tenure. This showed how, instead of focusing on affordable rent or leasehold, new models of tenure might be the next frontier for the retirement communities market. The conference was followed by the ARCO Drinks Reception, kindly sponsored by Nicol Thomas and Carterwood. This was once again brimming with delegates, and featured a very well received new addition – a Gin Bar of local gins and premium mixers. Delegates continued the day’s lively discussions well into the evening.

The Knowledge Exchange Day on Thursday 11 May provided the opportunity for more in-depth discussion with a choice of 10 interactive workshops. These covered topics from vertical villages and event fees, to the US market, deeper insight into the investment outlook for the sector, and the importance of sociable design. There were also tours of Bankhouse, One Housing’s brand new extra care scheme, overlooking the River Thames and Westminster. Delegates found this day highly informative, and a fantastic way to cement and develop ideas raised on the first conference day.

Click here to view our Storify story of key tweets from the day. 

Click here to find out more about ARCO membership.

Presentations and a feedback survey were emailed to all delegates. Please email [email protected] for more information about the 2017 conference, or information about next year’s events.