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Settle countryside

What works in rural areas?

More than one in five local authorities are already reflecting the kind of numbers of older people we are expecting in 2080, with around 44% of their population over the age of 50.   

Our Head of Localities, Natalie Turner, says we need to change the negative conceptualisations around rural communities and work to their strengths.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that as a society we are ageing. We’re living longer than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, and by 2040 we can expect people aged 50 and over to make up just over 40% of England’s population for the first time.  But what you might not know is that around one in three local authorities in England are already at that figure.  And perhaps more startlingly, more than one in five (78) are already reflecting the kind of numbers we are expecting in 2080, with around 44% of their population over the age of 50.   

When we published our strategy last year, we set some ambitious goals to help society adapt to these changes by 2040. If we are going to succeed, we need to work with and learn from places that are already there. 

This ONS map neatly shows just how demographic change will take shape across the UK over the next 20 years. With a few clicks it’s quickly visible that this change is not evenly spread, and that places experiencing the greatest and most rapid changes are largely or mainly rural, many of which are on the coast. A combination of outward migration of young people and inward migration of older people, many of whom are retirees looking for a good place to enjoy their next phase of life, helps to contribute to this picture. 

The common narrative around rural communities and ageing is often one of underfunding, stretched services, lack of infrastructure and investment, or poor transport provision. Conceptualised by what they don’t have, rather than what they do. This, combined with a negative societal narrative around ageing, means that rural areas are too often conceptualised as being in, or close to, crisis.  

In fact, there are many unique strengths to be found in rural and coastal settings, often because of the richness of their social connections, and the assets of the people that live there. For example, many enjoy higher levels of trust and better health and wellbeing outcomes than urban areas.   

To achieve our vision of a society where everyone enjoys a good later life, we need to know ‘what works’ in the different types of places we live in. We need to build a deeper understanding how rural places overcome challenges as well as maximise the opportunities of our longer lives; across all our priorities on homes, communities, work and health.  

That is why we are now looking to partner with a rural / and or coastal locality which shares our ambition for more people to live a good later life. Building on our successful partnerships with Greater Manchester and Leeds we are inviting Expressions of Interest from places that would like to work with us to generate and apply evidence, and to share learning locally, regionally and nationally.

Connected communities

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Natalie Turner
Head of Localities