#AllAgesMatter in solving our housing and loneliness crises

By: Stephen Burke 

One of the most frequent predictions for life post COVID-19 is the continued growth of mutual aid and neighbourhood action. Locked down at home, many of us have volunteered in recent months to help neighbours who are shielding and built new community links.

Despite this ray of sunshine, post COVID-19, we will still face the twin crises of loneliness and lack of affordable housing, affecting both younger and older people.

Housing remains one of the main grudges of younger generations, priced out of the housing market. At the same time, as a recent ARCO (the Associated Retirement Community Operators) report reminds us, older people have inadequate housing choices in later life. They argue that increasing housing options for older people could release more family-sized homes for younger generations.

This is an example of the trade-offs our ageing society is facing. Unless we get to grips with these issues and act together with all generations for tomorrow, Britain will not reap the longevity dividends of our ageing society.

In the meantime, life after the coronavirus will see substantial changes for people of all ages. This will include how and where they live their lives and how they interact in their neighbourhoods. People also want to see more intergenerational fairness, stronger community spirit and opportunities to interact with other generations.

Off the back of these positive desires, I offer six predictions for the 2020s:

  1.  More families will choose to live together, with three plus generations under the same roof, sharing space, care, finances and more.
  2.  More older people with spare bedrooms will be home-sharing with young people in return for companionship and practical support.
  3. More sheltered housing schemes for older people will also accommodate younger people – from students to young mothers to young people leaving care.
  4. More extra care housing schemes for older people will also be home to younger adults with additional needs.
  5. Deserted high streets and town centres will see office/retail space converted into intergenerational shared spaces and housing.
  6. A growing number of older people’s retirement communities, particularly new developments, will feature intergenerational activities and facilities.

If these six predictions materialise, then Britain will see a big growth in intergenerational housing, enabling younger and older people to live together, mix through shared spaces and activities, provide self-care and develop meaningful relationships in stronger communities. These mutual benefits will help build trust and understanding between generations and tackle ageism.

Intergenerational housing can help tackle the crises of loneliness and affordable housing, by making better use of housing stock, building relationships and neighbourliness, reducing inequalities and improving access to services. It’s all about people and their communities and including the most isolated.

Intergenerational housing can also address the needs of particular groups such as older and younger people with additional needs, young parents, grandparents looking after grandchildren, looked after young people leaving care. Finally, intergenerational housing also supports many national and local government policies and priorities from health to communities.

If we are serious about building an ageing society for all generations, then we need many more affordable homes that work for people of all ages.

One of the sessions at ILC’s Future of Ageing conference Together for tomorrow: Delivering a better society for all ages to be held on 3 December 2020 will focus on how we can make housing work for young and old alike and what lessons can be learnt from the current pandemic.

Stephen Burke is Director of United for All Ages www.unitedforallages.com. More about the Intergenerational Housing Network can be found at www.unitedforallages.com/news


Stephen Burke

Stephen Burke

Director, United for All Ages

Stephen Burke is director of the ‘think and do’ tank, United for All Ages set up in 2010. It aims to create stronger communities and a stronger Britain by bringing older and younger people together. This includes promoting and developing shared sites, such as care-home nurseries and intergenerational housing schemes where older and younger people can mix and share activities and experiences. www.unitedforallages.com @united4allages

Previously Stephen was chief executive of two national care charities, the leader of a London borough and on the board of various NHS bodies. As well as founding United for All Ages, Stephen co-founded the Campaign to End Loneliness and the Good Care Guide. Currently he is chair and trustee of several housing, care, ageing and family charities.