Urgent problem of homes for ageing rural population

Date: Tuesday 26th September 2017

Sir, Wendy Martin’s letter (Herald, 16th September) regarding the decline of rural villages is dear to my heart. It’s an urgent, far-reaching problem which nobody is addressing.

While those in charge of planning seem obsessed with building houses for families, they seem to forget that children grow up and parents grow old. Then what? Where is the affordable, suitable, rural housing provision for our ageing population?

Several older people have had to leave my village in recent years, despite having worked and lived here in one case for two generations.

Older people who refuse to move are stuck living in large family homes they can no longer maintain and which are unsuitable for anyone with mobility problems, leading to an increased risk of falls.

Tenant farmers and farm workers are particularly at risk. They toil our land for decades only to find that when they retire and have to leave tenanted housing there is nowhere affordable in the village for them to live, forcing them to move into town, leaving their friends, support network and often families behind.

This has a knock-on effect for everyone. No grandparents to help with childcare and no children to help care for infirm parents who then need help from social services, which adds to the financial burden for all of us, not to mention isolation and loneliness for older people forced to move to a new area where they do not know anybody, which can lead to depression.

Although there are bungalows in my village, they are at particular risk from being bought by wealthy outsiders. They are more expensive than houses and at a starting price above £250,000 are 12 times the local average wage.

Building affordable, suitable rural housing for older people, both social and owned with local occupancy restrictions, would free up large family homes.

It would reduce the burden on social services and the health service. It would help keep our villages alive, with retired people doing most of the volunteer work for our churches, fetes and parish councils.

But, most importantly, it would benefit the health and well-being of rural people. Yours etc,