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Roll with the times

Attitudes towards older people and services for them need must be challenged in order to stay relevant

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You could call it a mid-life crisis, but Hanover is marking its 50th anniversary this year by asking leading think tanks whether our very raison d’être needs to be questioned.

Demographic, policy and social changes are prompting us to ask how relevant our service models are going to be for the future.

Next week we will publish the first of 10 papers from think tanks across the political spectrum as part of the ‘Hanover@50’ debate. These will question our existing approaches and assumptions and those of other housing providers, commissioners and policy-makers.

The scope of this debate has been set widely: from general themes such as the image of older people through to the role they play in society and models of housing and lifestyles for them. This will force us to confront some fundamental issues - even questioning whether retirement housing as we know it has a future.

Of course, public and third sector services have been talking about personalisation and diversity of provision for years. However, isn’t age-exclusive housing inherently institutional? Does it inevitably tend towards ghettoisation and isolation? Can even the best-intentioned providers avoid paternalistic behaviours that reinforce ageist assumptions?

Some think tanks have extended such challenges beyond housing and question the validity of age-specific policies around taxation, social security and other services. These debates will impact upon the viability and value of retirement housing. Other papers in the series argue that a greater challenge to current models comes from small-scale innovations, such as co-housing and ‘micro-enterprise’ models. These are matters the sector cannot ignore. We need to engage with these debates so we can shape future patterns of provision.

Bruce Moore is chief executive of Hanover Housing Association

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