A Movement for Change

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Karen Mitchell
Chief executive, Southway Housing trust, and Chair of the GM Housing Planning and Ageing Group

Sometimes you get the chance to work with a group of people who just get it. In this case, a group who have a shared passion for working towards a society that allows people to age well.

The Greater Manchester Housing, Planning and Ageing Group (HPA) is one such group. I have had the pleasure of chairing the group since it was established in 2017.  I have just left the role in the capable hands of Nigel Saunders from Pozzoni Architecture, as I prepare for my retirement in a couple of weeks' time.

So what is it all about, and what has the group achieved?

The HPA was set up to deliver the housing ambitions of the Greater Manchester Age-friendly strategy, the most recent version of which was published earlier this year (Available at: 9A Greater Manchester Age-Friendly Strategy 2024 -2034 (opens new window)). The aim of the group is to increase the quantity and quality of age-friendly homes across Greater Manchester.  It does this by commissioning and promoting research and good practice, raising awareness about housing requirements and aspirations, and challenging decision makers, project managers, and those with influence to always think about age friendly principles when designing and building new homes and neighborhoods. It covers all tenures and is multi-disciplinary with members who are policy makers, service providers, academics, architects and designers, developers, housing providers, representatives from the Older Peoples Board and the GM Ageing Hub.

We see ourselves as a movement for change.  We share a belief that ageing well is important and that increasing the supply of homes and the range of housing options for people in mid to later life is a key part of the GM aim of “creating good lives for all, so that GM is a great place to grow up, get on and grow old”.

Our meetings are always interesting and we consider and influence a wide range of strategies, topics and projects. 

We have influenced significant regeneration projects to build in age friendly principles from the outset. This included the 15,000 home programme at Victoria North in Manchester, one of the biggest development projects in Europe, who presented their ideas to the group early on in their thinking. 

Recently, we have considered the GM Streets for All design guide (Available at: Streets for All | Bee Network | Powered by TfGM (opens new window)), the opportunity to introduce age friendly planning guidance, have helped to shape the Bolton Town Centre plan, have met with the government’s Older People’s Housing Task Force, and have helped shape the Ageing in Place Pathfinder.

It is probably the research that has delivered the greatest benefits. We were fortunate to have financial support from the Centre for Ageing Better for a number of years to commission housing related research.

As part of this, working with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) we oversaw the production of the  ‘Rightsizing: Reframing the housing offer for older people’ report in 2018 (Available at: rightsizing_msa_final3.pdf (greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk) (opens new window). This challenged the often unpopular notion of downsizing and reframed it as older people moving to a home that is the right size for their later years, including an understanding of why and where people move.  Rightsizing is now understood and used to shape policy across the housing sector in GM.

In the last year we have published a new guide ‘Creating age friendly developments: A practical guide for ensuring homes and communities support ageing in place’ (Available at: creatingafdevelopments (opens new window)). This was launched at a breakfast event in November with over 70 representatives, mostly from private sector organisations. The guide sets out 42 things to consider when designing new homes and is clear that we should not allow excellence to be the enemy of doing something – do as many of the 42 as you can.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved with the HPA. Keep up the good work.

Increasingly, the planning for new housing and regeneration takes place at a regional level. The impact of an ageing society needs to be built into regional strategies The resources listed on our Regional Housing Strategy webpages, kindly supported by Aster Group, include guides for sustainable planning as well as a survey of progress.


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