Yesterday [11 March], residents and staff from Housing 21 gathered in the impressive surroundings of the House of Lords to meet with MPs, Peers and industry leaders to discuss how retirement communities can provide a credible solution to the pressing challenge of how we meet the lifestyle, health and care needs of older people.

The event marked the launch of the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO); the new trade body that has been established to promote confidence in the sector; to increase the volume and quality of expertise within the sector; and to raise awareness of the retirement community model amongst policy makers, older people and stakeholders alike. ARCO strives to drive up standards of housing and care provision in the retirement community sector, and to this end all ARCO-registered schemes have to adhere to the standards of quality laid out in the ARCO Charter.

Attended by 140 guests, including 14 parliamentarians, the afternoon reception was hosted by Baroness Greengross OBE, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ageing and Older People. ARCO also welcomed Baroness Joan Hanham CBE, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, both of whom addressed guests with words of support for the retirement community sector.

All three speakers were strongly supportive of the ARCO model of housing with care, all noting the importance of helping older people retain their much valued independence. It was also acknowledged that integrated service delivery is critical in securing the best possible outcomes for older people, and that housing must be considered alongside health and social care priorities at both the local and national level.

ARCO particularly welcomed the demonstration of cross-party support for improving choice within the housing and care market place, and the commitment to ensuring that the retirement community model is made more widely available alongside other mainstream options.

Pushpa Raguvaren, Chief Executive of Housing 21 said:

“As the provider with the largest number of extra care developments we welcome the opportunity of highlighting the benefits of retirement communities through our ARCO membership. Our own research and feedback from residents demonstrates that housing integrated with health and social care offers independence and promotes wellbeing. It is a major step forward in combatting social isolation amongst older people, including those who develop dementia.”

ARCO Chairman, Jon Gooding said:

“The Association has formed at a critical juncture in the housing and social care debate. We are all grappling with the challenge of how we provide high quality care and housing to an ageing population in a time of economic uncertainty and restraint, coupled with rising expectations and lifestyle aspirations. I strongly believe that ARCO’s members represent the solution, at least in part.

“We, as an Association, will do our part and strive to promote and develop the sector, whilst ensuring that people are aware of the ways in which the retirement community sector can meet their lifestyle, health and social care needs. However, to achieve real growth in this sector we call on Government in Westminster, Whitehall and the town hall to encourage meaningful integration of housing and care provision.

“We believe that combining independent housing with 24/7 care in a community setting presents a credible solution for many older people. The stage is set for the Government to act and empower older people to prepare for and make the right move at the right time; securing access to the support they need whilst maintaining their valued independence and the right to their own front door.”


Yesterday’s launch coincided with the release of new data on the extent of the loneliness epidemic in the UK, highlighting the need for a new approach to housing and care for older people.

Results from a survey, conducted exclusively for ARCO, suggested that more than 66 million hours are spent alone by people aged over 65[i] each day, equivalent to each person over 65 spending over 100 days alone each year[ii]. Studies have dubbed loneliness a ‘hidden killer’ which can increase the risks of death amongst older people by 10 per cent[iii].

The Opinium Research survey of 1,030 people aged over 65 also comes as a major House of Lords Select Committee inquiry is conducted into how Government should respond to an ageing society[iv]. The survey findings include:

  • A quarter of respondents feel lonely some or most of the time (24 per cent)
  • Almost one in five (18 per cent) of over 75s sometimes go a full weekend without seeing and speaking to another person
  • Over half of respondents (54 per cent) feel unable to talk about this loneliness with their family; or their children (46 per cent)
    • London is the loneliest place to grow old (average of 7.8 hours on their own in a typical day)

The survey also lays bare the myth that a primary concern for older people is staying in their own home; a common misconception in Westminster and Whitehall. When asked what worried them most about getting older, poor health (32 per cent) came out top, while having to leave the family home most concerned just four per cent of respondents.

Despite being worried about their health declining with age and being forced to move into a care home, people appear unprepared for older age. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of respondents have not made any changes to the way they live, or made any preparations for their changing housing needs.

ARCO Chairman, Jon Gooding, said:

“We are in the grip of a loneliness epidemic; people are fearful of their declining health; and yet appear to be unprepared for old age. Couple this with the fact that in 2033 there will be 3.3 million people over the age of 85 in the UK and it becomes clear that we face a momentous challenge. The emergence of this brand new generation, who want more and expect more from their retirement, calls for a entirely different approach to housing and care.

“Today’s survey shows that whilst people have legitimate concerns about getting older, they are not so worried about being able to stay in the family home. We know that the decision to ‘stay put’ is often associated with a complete lack of choice. We need to wake up as a country and ensure that people are aware of, and have access to, a variety of options for high quality housing, care and support in old age.”


[i] British adults aged 65+ spend 66,406,400 of waking hours alone each day (based on an average of 6.4 hours from the sample of 1000 UK adults aged 65+ x 10.4 million 65+ adults in the UK (ONS)).

[ii] According to the sample, British adults over the age of 65 spend, on average, 6.4 hours alone each day. This equates to 2,336 hours each year (6.4 hours x 365 days). This is equivalent to 137.4 days alone each year (2,336 hours / 17 hours). [Most healthy adults in the UK sleep for 7 hours each night, leaving 17 hours awake ( i.e. the average waking day for a healthy adult in the UK is 17 hours).

[iii] Carla M. Perissinotto, MD, MHS; Irena Stijacic Cenzer, MA; Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD, MPH, Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death, Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(14):1078-1084.

[iv] The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change is due to publish the findings from its inquiry into the ageing population in March 2013.

For more information, please contact Katie Russell on 020 7824 1859 or

Opinion Poll Results

Opinimum conducted an online survey of 1,030 people aged over 65 in the UK between 15th and 18th February 2013.
Key findings:
• Average hours spend alone by over 65s on a typical day = 6.4 hours
• Percentage of over 65s who spend 20 hours on their own on a typical day (16-20 hours) = 10 per cent
• Percentage of over 65s who spend the entire waking day on their own on a typical day (11-20 hours) = 21 per cent

About ARCO

Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) is the main body that represents retirement communities in the UK. The Association was formed to raise awareness of the retirement community model, which ARCO believes can provide a credible solution to the pressing challenge of how we meet the lifestyle, health and social care needs of our ageing population. Retirement communities may also be referred to as retirement villages; extra care housing; housing with care; assisted living; close care apartments; and independent living.
ARCO continually strives to:

 Promote confidence in the sector, ensuring that all members are providing a high quality service to their residents. To this end, all ARCO-registered schemes have to adhere to the standards laid out in the ARCO Charter.
 Raise awareness of the retirement community model amongst older people and stakeholders alike -  ensuring that all older people are aware of the variety of housing options available to them; and that policy makers fully understand the ways in which this type of housing provision can meet the lifestyle, health and social care needs of our ageing population.
 Increase the volume and quality of expertise within the sector and share this with members, continually investing in research to better understand and promote the socio-economic value of the housing with care model. 

Quick facts about retirement communities

1. Retirement communities offer self-contained accommodation, primarily for older people, which can be purchased or rented with security of tenure.
2. There are currently 50,000 people living in retirement communities in the UK today.
3. Residents can take advantage of personal care that is delivered flexibly, usually by staff based on the premises, and have access to a wide range of additional domestic services (housing with care).
4. Residents can choose either to eat in their own homes or in a restaurant or communal dining area. All communal facilities are managed to encourage an active social programme in the community.
5. Retirement communities aim to provide residents with a home for life, enabling people to “age in place”.
6. The potential impact of retirement communities on the UK property market is significant, enabling older people to free up equity and invest in a new home that will retain its value. Critically, residents in a retirement community will be assured security of tenure. This is particularly important as research has shown a preference amongst older people for owner occupation.
7. In 2010 the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) commissioned a study into the financial benefits of investment in specialist housing (retirement communities being a type of specialist housing). The report concluded that the total benefit of specialist housing is approximately £1.6 billion. The largest single benefit was estimated for older people. The report attributed this saving to a reduction in a reliance on health and social care services.


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