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Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research


Many vulnerable older people face related challenges around poor housing, poverty, loneliness and lack of support, which co-living housing models have the potential to address. The Nationwide Foundation and the Nationwide Building Society funded CCHPR to conduct research in order to understand the benefits, risks and potential for scaling up of co-living models for vulnerable older people. Our research included analysis of the complex and sometimes ambiguous legal and financial frameworks that can apply to such households.

The proportion of people aged 65 and over is growing faster than any other age group, and there are considerable differences between the wealth, health and housing circumstances of older people in the UK. While the income of many pensioners has risen and a number of older home owners hold considerable assets in property, many older households are on low or restricted incomes, with more than one in five pensioners in the UK living below the poverty line. Over a third of older people also live in non-decent or hazardous housing conditions. As people age, ordinary tasks within the home can become more difficult. Over three quarters of a million people aged 65 and over in the UK need specially adapted accommodation because of a medical condition or disability and 145,000 of them report living in homes that do not meet their needs. For older people with relatively low incomes and increasing physical frailty, the challenge can be maintaining and heating their homes as well as continuing to live securely and safely.

It has been consistently shown that good housing conditions can help to sustain good physical and mental health. A National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society has been in place in the UK since 2008, but little progress has been made by government in improving the housing conditions of the most vulnerable older people.

However, bottom-up solutions have been created by social housing providers, charitable organisations, social enterprises and older people themselves - and one of these solutions is co-living.  Our research for the Nationwide Foundation, an independent charitable foundation with a vision for everyone in the UK to have access to a decent home that they can afford, and the Nationwide Building Society, includes extensive interviews with stakeholders as well as qualitative research looking at three different models of older peoples' co-living. 

Project Publications:

Households of the Future: will sharing our home become the new norm?

CCHPR researchers and special guests were joined by members of the public for a lively debate on cohousing, multigenerational living and life as a digital nomad at Queens' College, Cambridge on Tuesday 15 October.

Co-living for vulnerable older people: Literature review

The initial phase for this project for The Nationwide Foundation and the Nationwide Building Society was a desk-based review of existing evidence about the benefits and risks of older peoples’ co-living. The review considers the relevant institutional, legal and financial frameworks that impact upon older peoples’ co-living.

Co-living for vulnerable older people: Stakeholder views

The second phase of CCHPR's project for The Nationwide Foundation and the Nationwide Building Society comprised a series of interviews with stakeholders in order to better understand co-living models of housing for older people.

Is co-living a housing solution for vulnerable older people?

Our final report for the Nationwide Foundation and the Nationwide Building Society was published in 2019. A summary report is also available.

Is co-living a good choice to support healthy, happy ageing at home?

Our booklet, 'Is co-living a good choice to support healthy, happy ageing at home?', provides information about co-living and the different forms it can take. It sets out the benefits that co-living brings, and sets out the risks associated with co-living. The booklet includes useful signposting for those interested in finding out more about co-living.

CCHPR Contact

Project Start Date

November 2018