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Planning for Surrey’s Ageing Population

Reflections

With recent Census data showing 19% of Surrey’s population is aged 65+, a figure expected to climb to over 22% by 2030, Meeting Place’s webinar brought together key voices across the sector to discuss how we can deliver more age-appropriate housing for older people across the county.

Setting the stage for integrated retirement communities

The event began with an informative presentation from James Lloyd, Director of Policy and Communications at ARCO – the main body representing the Integrated Retirement Community (IRC) sector in the UK.

Introducing the concept of IRC, he outlined the model’s ability to offer a blend of housing and care, designed to support older adults in maintaining their independence. Unlike traditional retirement housing, commonly referred to as sheltered housing, IRCs provide 24-hour on-site support, wellness facilities, and a strong community focus.

While highlighting the benefits in terms of improved well-being, reduced healthcare costs, and delayed onset of care needs, there was also discussion about the challenges facing the sector. With the UK lagging behind countries like New Zealand and Australia, there remains a need for greater awareness of IRCs and policy support to expand housing options for older people. 

Tackling Surrey’s housing challenges

Councillor Sinead Mooney, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care at Surrey County Council, then dived into detail on the Council’s strategic approach to addressing housing challenges across the county. With high house prices even compared to the wider South East region, and limited appropriately sized housing options, Surrey faces significant hurdles in meeting the needs of its ageing population.

Cllr Mooney outlined the Council’s efforts to gather comprehensive data and engage with key stakeholders across the sector, resulting in a robust housing strategy focused on collaboration and sustainable development.

Key challenges identified include the high cost of land, a shortage of suitable housing for older people, and the need for more affordable housing options for essential workers, including those working in care. Cllr Mooney emphasised the importance of freeing up under-occupied homes and retrofitting existing housing stock to meet modern standards.

Inspired Villages: A model for success

Ellen Pearce, Senior Planning Manager at Inspired Villages, then provided an overview of Inspired Villages’ positive ambitions to meet the growing need for more housing options for older people across the country. With a spotlight on Ledian Gardens in Kent – where community facilities are open to both residents and the wider public, fostering social inclusion and well-being – she shared compelling data on health outcomes, including an average reduction in residents’ biological age of 9.1 years.

She also discussed the broader social benefits of IRCs, such as job creation and improved social care outcomes, stressing the importance of integrated community engagement in the planning and development process.

Key takeaways and future directions

The webinar concluded with a dynamic discussion on the collaborative efforts required to meet Surrey’s housing needs. Here are some of the key recommendations and insights:

  • Collaborative planning: Foster stronger partnerships between local authorities, developers, and care providers to streamline development processes and unlock land for housing projects.
  • Increased awareness: Enhance public and local government understanding of IRCs to support their expansion and integration into housing strategies.
  • Policy support: Advocate for clear policy frameworks and definitions for IRCs within national and local planning guidelines.
  • Sustainable development: Focus on creating sustainable, age-appropriate housing that promotes well-being and community integration, while addressing the unique needs of Surrey’s ageing population.

Planning for Surrey’s ageing population requires innovative solutions and collaborative efforts. The insights shared during the webinar highlight the potential of Integrated Retirement Communities to meet these needs effectively.

By working together and advocating for supportive policies, Surrey can ensure its older residents have access to the housing and care they need, enhancing their quality of life and contributing to the overall well-being of the community.

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