Housing older people in rural Northumberland

27th May 2019

Housing older people in rural Northumberland

That was the common message amongst expert speakers at a conference on housing older people in rural Northumberland held on Thursday 16 May at Breamish Hall, Powburn.

Organised by CAN, the rural community council for Northumberland, the conference focused on issues and solutions, having identified this as a major issue at a previous event.

Chaired by CAN’s president, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, the conference heard evidence on how the population is ageing whilst transport and other services are generally declining. Local Housing Need surveys also told of many older people struggling to find the accommodation they need of the right type and in the right location.

Andy Dean, CEO of CAN, presented the evidence and future trends of an older population in Northumberland and asked people to take a positive look at the issue:

“The population is ageing, there’s no doubting that. We need to embrace this change, addressing the challenges it presents but also responding to the opportunities. Alongside the skills and experience this will bring, with more people needing specialist services this could help create the critical mass necessary to make them more viable.”

Speakers from the National Housing Federation, Newcastle University and Northumberland County Council set the scene whilst local speakers Mark Massey from IDP Partnership, Paul Harrison from Bell View and Ged Walsh from Karbon Homes outlined their thoughts on potential solutions and existing good practice.

Thomas Scharf from Newcastle University Institute for Ageing gave a research perspective on rural ageing:

“We need to be incredibly cautious about the “burden of ageing” language. There is no ideal age structure of our society. Fundamentally our ageing population is a good and positive development in society. We’ve known about it for a long time, we just haven’t responded to it as quickly as we should have. But the later we delay our response the more problematic it becomes. We can innovate in rural areas, and carry the innovations into our younger urban areas. This is how future society is going to look. Let’s get on with making the changes we need to make.”

Case studies were shown of successful housing solutions and how they could be applied to Northumberland. Bell View in Belford was highlighted as an effective charity-led service developed to help keep people in their own homes and their communities as long as they wished. The afternoon ended with a panel discussion with points made on linking up social care and housing funding to bring a comprehensive response.