Could a ‘caring town’ housing concept transform our age?

An elderly woman wearing a black coat crosses the street in a housing area in Scotland.
Published: 18/05/2018

We are working on the theme of town centre living and a caring place and have invited a conversation on the ten principles of a caring place. In this blog Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, outlines his thoughts about town centre living and the opportunities of creating flexible and caring housing reflecting our demographic changes.

Facts and figures

In Scotland there are now more people over the age of 68 than there are children.

Average life expectancy continues to increase rapidly and despite pension reform we are struggling to provide properly funded care. If current trends continue, in 20 years time, those aged 75 and over will have grown from 400,000 to 800,000 with the overall population growing to 5.7m.

Half of all young people now attend University compared with just 5% 50 years ago. The average debt on graduation is £44,000. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predict that 70% of these graduates will either never earn enough to repay this debt or make part payments which will leave a balance to be written off and picked up by the taxpayer. Younger generations are increasingly renting or living with parents a lot longer than previous generations.

Migration from the UK and EU is the main growth driver with migrants tending to be younger than the general population. The number of households is projected to grow from 2.4 to 2.8m over the next 20 years with most of this growth being attributed to ageing demographic and a predominance of single person households. The dependency ratio (children and pensioners being supported by the working age population) is expected to increase from 574 per 1,000 to 638 per 1,000.

An age of opportunity?

Despite such radical changes in the make up of our population, there have been very few changes in the housing products being offered. If more people need single or smaller homes, surely this allows previously marginal sites in towns and cities to be delivered with higher density? 

If housing options for those empty nesters could be made more attractive, (future proofed, nursery provision, pools and gyms, dining facilities, pool cars, cycling and walking, recovery beds, low carbon exemplars) new sustainable communities could blossom and existing housing stock recycled to younger families.

There is an opportunity here to create local economies with health and well being, leisure and entertainment, retail services, care and social support being embedded into these new intergenerational concept homes. And all at a massive longer term cost saving to the healthcare system.

Flexible housing options

If the younger generations are more transient and experiential. Why not think about rented City Apart or Apart Hotel models in our towns and cities as an option to help manage the housing mix and to free up social rented accommodation?

And then if we link the two, perhaps all the research and development, work around Ageing and Dementia, disability adaptions and digital diagnostics, advances in medicine and treatments, new services and products would create an industry for younger people to be economically engaged.

The market is not quite there yet but the stark realities are forcing Government to prompt new thinking and new solutions.

Society is always changing and we will always adapt, maybe with some thought and investment we can use housing to transform our age.

In partnership with the Housing and Care Sectors, the Scottish Government and Architecture and Design Scotland, we are exploring the caring town concept.

About Scotland’s Towns Partnership

At Scotland's Town Partnership there is a wealth of evidence tools, case studies, events and funding advice to help you make a difference. Phil Prentice is the Chief Officer of Scotlands Towns Partnership and new Programme Director for Scotland’s Improvement Districts. With almost 25 years experience in the field of Economic Development, Phil is focused on helping improve the economic and social fortunes of Scotland’s cities, towns and smaller settlements across the country.

Header image credit: Ross Sneddon on Unsplash

Share your stories on a caring place

We are developing and inviting a conversation on a caring place through our social media channels and on this website. If you'd like to share you knowledge and experiences of what it takes to design for a caring place, get in touch.

Get in touch