Rural communities need more homes for an ageing population

Government policies are overlooking the housing needs of older people in rural areas, according to a new report from an All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Published after a 9-month Inquiry organised by the APPG on Housing & Care for Older People, the report warns that growing numbers of older people in rural areas will face a ‘huge challenge to their independence and well-being’ as their family homes become increasingly unsuitable.

The gap between the average age in rural and urban areas is widening. In 20 years, nearly half of rural households will be headed by someone aged over 65.

The report states policy makers must recognise the growing housing needs of older people living in the countryside. It recommends that Local Planning Authorities ensure provision of new homes for older people, noting the value of both the building of small village developments – “perhaps six bungalows on an unused scrap of land” – or larger scale retirement schemes in towns close by.

The Chair of the Inquiry, Lord Best, said: “For all the advantages of living in the countryside, life can be pretty miserable if your home is no longer right for you: if you can no longer manage the steps and stairs, if maintaining the property is costing too much, if keeping warm is a trial and your energy bills a nightmare, if you can no longer tend the once-beautiful garden.” And in relation to the need for care, he went on “Indeed, if you need some support – and some company – but if these are not to hand, then country living can be tough.

The Enquiry heard from Paul Smith, Director of Foundations, that the value of HIAs and handyperson services in rural areas cannot be underestimated. They offer an essential network of rural service across the country to maintain, improve and adapt older people and disabled people’s homes. He drew attention to the work of several HIAs in accessing Disabled Facilities Grant, warm homes funding and other grants, providing handyperson services, and tackling disrepair. The report includes a HIA case study from Norfolk.

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