Meeting Tomorrow’s Needs Today: how can we support sustainable living in later life?
Addressing climate change is the biggest issue of our lifetimes. Since the first industrial revolution over 200 years ago, economic growth and the advances that have flowed from it have been almost entirely driven by fossil fuels.
We have to change that in just a decade or two and do it at the same time as our society ages.
By 2050, 1 in 4 people in the UK will be over 65. We also know that 2050 is the year that the UK is aiming to achieve net zero carbon emissions. These twin facts mean that creating modern, sustainable, and high-quality homes for the growing number of older people in the UK must form a key part of the nation’s plans to tackle climate change.
Barbara Keeley MP, who sits on the Health and Social Care Select Committee, agrees that driving up quality will be critical if we are to meet the needs of our ageing population and allow older people to live independently for longer. “From accessibility to sustainability, we need to ensure that new homes are high-quality and durable,” she argues, calling for the provision of, “specialised, adaptable housing for older people which both provides a secure home and meets their specific needs.”
This pressing need, for a step change in the quality of older people’s housing in the UK, is why L&G is investing in the delivery of environmentally sustainable, well-designed homes for later living. It believes that meeting the housing needs of older people also provides an opportunity to upgrade the nation’s specialist housing stock to help it deliver on the UK’s wider net zero goals.
“Meeting the housing needs of an ageing population is also an opportunity to help the UK meet its net zero targets,” John Godfrey, Corporate Director at L&G tells us. “Supporting this growing group of citizens to live independent and fulfilled lives is not simply a challenge for tomorrow. It is a challenge for today.”
Inspired Villages is L&G’s developer and operator of later living homes and is already investing in cutting edge initiatives and projects that use innovation to help meet the needs of our ageing society. With a focus on new construction methods, modern technologies, and alternative energy sources, their aim is to provide great and sustainable places to live for the UK’s growing number of older people.
Millfield Green is a new Inspired Villages £120m scheme, of 200 specialist homes, being built in Bedfordshire. The village will be the UK’s first carbon neutral retirement community and could play a key role in the future of sustainable specialist housing in the UK.
All of the homes in Millfied Green will have the highest standards of energy efficiency, thanks to modern building methods and cutting-edge insulation technologies. Heating is provided, not by fossil fuels, but through Mechanical Heat Vent Recovery units, and ground-source heat pumps, provided by Kensa Group, a business that L&G took a significant stake in last year. Energy is generated onsite too, using photovoltaics.
A Department of Health spokesperson told us, “We recognise a high quality, safe, and suitable home can help older people and those with disabilities stay independent and healthy for longer and reduce health and social care costs.”
But Millfield Green is about much more than just the buildings. To be truly sustainable, the scheme has been designed to create a genuine sense of community, which provides the social support and togetherness that we all need. That is why, as well as new homes, Millfield Green residents, and members of the local community, will also enjoy access to a restaurant, café, library and cinema room.
Supported by a £5 million donation from L&G, the Helix project in Newcastle is pioneering new, innovative approaches to both independent living and residential care.
The Helix project will deliver 66 new independent living homes, which is great news for older people living in the city. However, the impact of this project could also be felt in towns and cities far beyond the North East. Helix is also developing five ‘demonstrator homes,’ to test the latest innovations and products which can support ageing and environmental sustainability in a real-world setting. The learning from this project will help providers across the UK to develop sustainable future models for later living.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes, describes himself as “thrilled” by the partnership between the council, L&G, and local housing association Karbon Homes. “Newcastle is a very forward thinking, modern city that is digital by design”, he says. “Newcastle can be a global leader in our thinking for the future, and homes and services like this can showcase that belief”.
As well as the new independent living homes the £5 million donation to Newcastle City Council will also see the construction of a small (20-25) place registered residential facility designed around lessons of COVID-19. The ‘new model care home’ will be a prototype which moves away from the traditional large-scale care home to a more domestic, clustered, communal setting. Its design and operation will incorporate key lessons learned from the COVID pandemic, including on infection control and operation of lockdowns and “support bubbles”, helping to minimise negative effects on residents, particularly those living with dementia. The care home’s construction will be led by the City Council who will also own and operate the facility.
This is a local project with much wider potential significance. The partnership will help L&G develop research data, and understanding, about how to deliver better care, particularly in a post-COVID environment. This learning can drive wider change and innovation in the sector.
Alongside our work in Newcastle we have also setup a £20m partnership with Edinburgh University to establish The Advanced Care Research Centre. Over the next few years the ACRC will focus the talents of its academic leaders on the way that care is delivered in the UK. Most crucially though, the ACRC’s core mission is positive; we want to understand more about what works and how we do more of it.
Health, wealth and inequality
Inequality is the biggest challenge to ageing and later living. The UK has huge differentials in Healthy Life Expectancy: 53.3 years in Blackpool compared to 71.9 years in Richmond-upon Thames for men; 54.2 years for women in Nottingham versus 72.2 years in Wokingham. The issues are not just about lifespans; the picture we see emerging, and again it is unequal, is the gap between healthspans and lifespans. We need to understand much more about health inequality to address later living.
The Marmot Review, published in 2010, remains one of the most significant contributions to strategic thinking about health inequalities in the UK. L&G recently announced a new long-term partnership with Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the University College of London (UCL) Institute of Health Equity (IHE) and professor of epidemiology.
The partnership will lead to a multi-million pound charitable Fund - “The Legal & General IHE Places Fund” - to examine how improvements to the design and construction of our towns and cities can help to address health inequalities and support “levelling up” across the UK’s regions.
The Fund will sit alongside a new Legal & General IHE Network for UK public authorities and businesses to support idea creation, sharing of best practice and insight, and innovation which can help increase long-term health span and reduce health inequalities. The Partnership represents a significant step forward as, for the first time, brings business together with local government and the voluntary and community sector to make a real difference to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, and to health equity.
Meeting Tomorrow’s Needs Today
The pandemic has shown that much more needs to be done to support sustainable living in later life. While we all pursue the goal of net zero by 2050 we also have to create a country with far better choices for a growing population. This is not just an issue about the ageing society – we are all ageing - today’s 50 year olds will be 79 in 2050.
L&G is investing in creating a more sustainable future for older people’s housing in the UK. Local schemes such as these are testing the new technologies that will improve later living, and deliver reductions in carbon emissions. The research-led approach
Phil Bayliss, CEO of Later Living at L&G Capital, believes that these investments have the potential to revolutionise the later living offer in the UK. “Initiatives such as Newcastle and Millfield Green are not only creating great places to live for residents, they are also providing clear environmental benefits for society,” he tells us. “These pioneering projects can generate learning that will help shape the future of older people’s housing across the sector.”
To find out more about how L&G is using its investments to deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits to the UK as a whole, click here.
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