Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Co-housing for seniors (and others)

On 2 June Green Templeton College on Oxford hosted a talk by Claire McNeil joint author with Jack Hunter of a report published by IPPR,  Generation Strain: Collective solutions to care in an ageing society.  If there is one thing that you should read in the coming months this should be it.

If you have time for one more report then it should be the JRF publication Senior cohousing communities - an alternative approach for the UK? written by Maria Brenton

Time is not on our side. McNeil explains how the current system of care for the elderly is simply unsustainable and the 'pinch' could come as soon as 2017. Many carers and cared for are already feeling the strain but very soon the ability of families to provide the £55b per annum equivalent of caring for relatives will diminish sharply. And the cost of replacement through formal care systems will put a serious strain on family, Council and Government finances - even were the faciliites and staff available.

Moving on to the JRF report on cohousing there is said to be a clamour for this form of congregant and sharing community, primarily but not exclusively by the older generations.  The case is made out, drawing on international examples where the Netherlands seem to have the greatest number and range (as with conventional housing, variety is very important). I would just turn to  the "Key barriers to progress" and guess what? the Report identifies "Local authority planning and other blockages such as departmental silos" as one  of the 6 barriers.   Wouldn't it be great if there were planners and planning authorities out there to  make sure that the finger is no longer pointed in our direction. 

The disparity between the advantages of cohousing models (possibly essential to relieving the Generations Strain) and the lack of supply could not be more stark and frustrating.  Brenton hopes that there would be the  “… Emergence of one 'pathfinder' local authority willing to work with forming-groups of older people to promote senior cohousing would make a significant difference to the adoption of this model as an alternative to the isolation at home that is increasingly the lot of very many older people. A' pathfinder' local authority  would itself acquire beacon status nationally and other local authorities would follow."  Unfortunately  for 20 years  Leeds has been  setting a similar example as 'pathfinder' for Neighbourhood Networks  and has found few if any followers.

I would recommend the reading of  both these reports but, of greater importance, would be for those working in local government or housing associations to grasp the  significance and urgency of this matter and to do  all that they can to facilitate the development of  cohousing.

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