“A housing and care revolution is within reach if the government is prepared to do the right thing.” – Nick Sanderson, chair of ARCO
One of the main recommendations of a recent report is to designate a new C2R planning Use Class for Retirement Communities who offer care and support which will be a mixture of C2 and C3 Use Classes. This could incentivise development and improve people’s health and wellbeing, reducing the need to use hospitals.
The report ‘Planning for Retirement – How Retirement Communities can help meet the needs of our Ageing Population’ by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) is an interesting insight into the current situation in the U.K regarding our lack of Retirement Housing. They have collaborated with the County Council Network (CCN) and District Councils’ Network (DCN) to create a partnership over various organisations of local authority and key players in the industry.
The report recognises the link between health and housing, aiming to shape healthy places. This will reduce the demand on the over-burdened health services, particularly the NHS. The report analyses where the Retirement Community model works well and where there are still obstacles preventing councils from delivering appropriate Retirement Housing. The report does not find the ultimate solution as this is such a complex topic, yet it tries to understand why Retirement Communities are so underrepresented in the UK and provides a number of recommendations that help to promote healthy ageing and support the industry in finding solutions that contribute to the greater provision of Retirement Housing.
Other recommendations that the report states are using a consistent language to define Retirement Communities, reviewing the current and future housing and care needs of people as they age, seek funding for such communities, set out policies that outline the current and future need, and raise awareness of Retirement Community models. The report certainly promotes collaboration between various parties in the sector and looks at the wider issues.
This report has certainly made us think about the retirement housing currently available in the U.K. From a design perspective we see ‘gated’ retirement villages located on the periphery of a town often segregated from the community or a care facility included within a development of mass housing. Maybe providing these one-off care facilities is not enough and we need to look at the wider community scale and how specialist housing knits into the fabric of our existing communities more successfully.
Empowering people to age in place within their existing environment and with their existing support network is vital to their wellbeing and the improvement of people’s lives as they grow older. Situating new retirement housing in more densely populated urban environments is an approach that can enable access to more facilities – especially care, varied types of social interactions and good transport links. A scheme in Zurich, Switzerland named Seniorenresidenz Spirgarten designed by architects Miller + Maranta does exactly this where the building is located in an urban setting. On the one hand it is an independent building of senior living apartments, but on the other it is neatly woven into the urban fabric providing a range of advantages for the residents primarily to increase interaction with the public and provide a connection to the existing community.
This approach is promoted by ARUP’s insightful report ‘Cities Alive – Designing for Ageing Communities’ which highlights a number of strategies to achieve age appropriate urban environments.
This is certainly the direction that the industry needs to move towards especially with the intention of creating more Retirement Communities and allows people to remain in the heart of the community without being set aside as they grow old.