Rising to the opportunities and challenges of the UK’s first age-friendly city region – a collaborative approach to housing our ageing population
12 July 2021
A think-tank partnership has been formed to raise some very topical discussions around how the Greater Manchester neighbourhood agenda can be fully realised. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), Pozzoni Architecture and Southway Housing Trust have collectively been leading a working group involving some key later living and housing industry figures across the private, public and third sectors to capture latest thinking around this agenda and drive meaningful change.
Greater Manchester is already recognised as the UK’s first age-friendly city-region by the World Health Organisation. The Greater Manchester Strategy, 'Our People, Our Place' focuses on objectives to make Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on in life and grow old. These include a thriving, productive, carbon neutral economy, providing good employment and opportunities to progress and develop for all; safe, decent and affordable housing in stronger and safer communities; better health, and quality care and support for people to live fulfilling and healthy lives; and an age-friendly city-region and safer and stronger communities. But how is Greater Manchester rising to the challenge of creating increased housing choice in later life?
The Greater Manchester Age Friendly Strategy has a vision for older residents in Greater Manchester to be able to contribute to, and benefit from, sustained prosperity and enjoy a good quality of life. Launched in 2017 it has objectives that increase housing choice to promote social connections and wellbeing in later life and establish age-friendly communities. It seeks to promote the development of new housing models such as co-housing, city and town centre living and LGBT-friendly later-life housing and promote better information, share age-friendly best practice that supports 'ageing in place', develop standards for housing improvement agencies and publish an age-friendly design guide.
Ambitions are high, and Greater Manchester already has a unique model with a dedicated team – the ‘GM Ageing Hub’ which was set up by the GMCA to respond to the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population in the city region, focusing on reducing inequalities and ageing well.
Last year, GMCA, Pozzoni Architecture and Southway Housing Trust, all members of the Housing, Planning and Ageing working group (part of the GM Ageing Hub structure), formed a working group collaboration to promote this agenda more widely across the private, public and third sectors. The group is specifically focused on bringing collective minds together to help shape solutions within the built environment across our cities, towns and rural communities, whilst also promoting social connectiveness and truly aspirational neighbourhoods.
In April 2021 the group co-hosted a roundtable session, chaired by Jeremy Porteus, Housing LIN with Lord Best OBE providing an opening overview, bringing together key developers, operators, advisors, public bodies and consultants from across the region. Against the backdrop of Greater Manchester’s credentials of the UK’s first age-friendly city region and a huge shortfall of homes supply, these individuals recognised the opportunity to help deliver positive change. The group discussed the creation of aspirational environments with diversity of age groups to re-create healthy intergenerational communities and offer greater choice in later life.
Discussion then turned to the challenges preventing this from currently happening. How can we incentivise the private sector to build the right kind of homes? What role can Homes England play in this? How can we encourage people in mid-to-later life to think about their needs in a positive, aspirational way instead of ‘downsizing’? Other discussion points covered issues as diverse as planning policy, the development case, access to care, tenure choice and appropriate terminologies.
The session also highlighted the need to respond positively to a future post-Covid landscape that is experiencing accelerated change to our urban areas, be that changes to the retail high street or office occupation. Solutions discussed included integration of new uses, including the housing and social infrastructure to support our ageing population, to provide environments and choices that encourage happy, healthy ageing, and an acknowledgement that older people are an essential and an immensely valuable part of any balanced society.
The social value potential in addressing the need for aspirational housing for our ageing population within strong community settings is huge.
There is still a great deal of work to further develop the narrative around housing our ageing population over the course of the next 25 years. The working group fully recognises that these questions will take time to resolve. However, there are extremely positive signs of growth in this sector and collective ambitions are really encouraging. A date in September has been confirmed to continue the conversation in order to focus on some key initiatives for the group going forward.
With thanks to our working group members from GMCA, Bruntwood, Glenbrook, Arcadis, Belong, Inspired Villages, Tetlow King, Balfour Beatty and the Centre for Ageing Better.
How is Greater Manchester rising to the challenge of creating increased housing choice in later life?
Our co-hosted roundtable session brought together key developers, operators, advisors, public bodies and consultants from across the region. Against the backdrop of Greater Manchester’s credentials of the UK’s first age-friendly city region and a huge shortfall of homes supply, these individuals recognised the opportunity to help deliver positive change. The group discussed the creation of aspirational environments with diversity of age groups to re-create healthy intergenerational communities and offer greater choice in later life, with conversation also turning to the challenges preventing this from currently happening.