Ageing in a Rural Place
22nd April 2021
A new report by the Centre for Ageing Better looks at what it’s like living later life in a rural, rather than an urban, setting. It’s an interesting paper with comments on shifting demographics, healthy ageing, fulfilling work, safe and accessible homes and connected communities. Housing for older people proved a multi-faceted topic discussed with great passion at our recent Community Led Housing Festival, where we picked up on many of the same concerns.
They point out early on that, “the geography of rural areas can prove problematic for delivery of and access to health and care. For example, the lack of, or distance from, services coupled with poor transport infrastructure can make attending regular appointments difficult.” They also point out that in 2017/18, predominantly rural local authorities received 36% less funding per head of population for the public health duties than predominantly urban authorities. This is starkly at odds with what is required when the report highlights “the need for rural areas to focus on a preventative approach to ensure that those in mid-life now reach later life in good health”.
With many people working into what would traditionally be called their ‘retirement years’, the report raises useful questions about supporting older workers to retrain or to work from home – particularly timely in relation to the lockdown work-life many have become accustomed to.
The report also recognises that while many older people move to rural settings for peace and quiet – the ‘rural idyll’ – the reality can be rather different with illness, bereavement, poor travel connections and poor broadband, leading to serious problems of isolation and loneliness for some people. However, they celebrate the strength of voluntary and community action in helping to build trust and a sense of community; “This is particularly evident in villages where community assets, such as churches or village halls play a key role in building and maintaining social connections.”
Opening up the discussion about safe and accessible homes for an aging population we are reminded that there are endemic issues around existing housing stock - not built with limited mobility in mind, often hard to heat and difficult to adapt for changing personal circumstances over time. And when looking to new homes as part of the solution the report concludes “there is currently an oversupply of large, detached homes in rural areas, whereas the demand is increasingly for smaller and lower cost homes”.
The report gives a series of reminders for practitioners and planners that older people in rural areas need fair access to key services, just as urgently as their urban contemporaries. While rural life has a great deal to offer the active retired, there must be real investment in housing stock, community transport and in public health support to take care of a growing population of frail elderly across sparse populations.
If you would like to read the full report use this link: https://www.ageing-better.org.uk/sites/default/files/2021-04/Ageing-in-rural-place.pdf