A group of MPs and peers has warned the housing needs of older people living in the countryside, particularly retiring farm workers, are being ignored by the Government.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing and Care for Older People has published a new report which called on Ministers to do more to provide rural homes suitable for the elderly.
The report follows a nine-month inquiry by the APPG, which heard the rural population is ageing faster than the urban population, with nearly half of rural households expected to be headed by someone over 65 in 20 years.
It recommended local planning authorities provide more and better homes for older people in the countryside, where they can stay close to friends and family without living in houses which are unsuitable for their needs.
Chair of the inquiry, Lord Best, said: “For all the advantages of living in the countryside, life can be pretty miserable if your house is no longer right for you.
“If you can no longer manage the steps and stairs, if maintaining the property is costing too much, if keeping warm is a trial and your energy bills a nightmare or if you can no longer tend the once-beautiful garden.
“If you need some support, and some company, but these are not to hand, then country living can be tough.”
Since major housebuilders concentrate on large sites and family homes where young buyers can get Government support, the report suggests the push for better housing in the countryside should be driven by housing associations, community-led initiatives, small to medium-sized builders and local landowners.
The situation is all the more urgent as homes in rural areas are less likely than their urban counterparts to be adapted for ageing and just 20 per cent of sheltered housing schemes are in the countryside – a lower proportion than population share.
Sue Chalkley, chief executive of Hastoe, England’s largest rural housing association, said: “We have a ticking demographic time bomb in rural England as our population ages rapidly.
“Failing to act now will mean more loneliness, isolation and expensive trips to hospital as rural areas will be left with a housing stock completely unsuitable for its population.
“Policy makers must wake up to this challenge and ensure we have more houses suitable for the rural elderly, and crucially, the right sort of houses too.”