Hopton Hopefuls are the newest addition to the Community Savers family: a group of Over 50s tenants who have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with resilience, mutual aid, and a good dose of wry humour, supported also by On Top of the World Hulme.

Since COVID struck, many older tenants have been isolated in their one bedroom flats with little support. Older people were already facing challenges of social isolation and fragmented and under-funded health and social care services before COVID happened, while also trying to make ends meet on pension credits. But as other agencies pulled back from face to face working, increasing pressure fell on informal community groups and mutual aid initiatives to meet people’s daily needs.

Despite the enforced isolation, tenants were able to make good use of the gardens over the summer, supported by On Top’s socially distanced drop ins, bingo sessions, and Get Busy on Your Balcony! And true to the history of tenant action in Hulme, the Hopton community responded to the COVID-19 crisis not by retreating but by re-organising: setting up a new tenants group and working with CLASS and academics at MICRA, University of Manchester, and at Manchester School of Architecture, on research that could bring older people’s experiences at Hopton Court to light.

Hopton Hopefuls are now working in partnership with One Manchester to co-produce a new initiative called a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) at their tower block with five objectives:

  • Re-instating age-banding to Over-55s
  • Development of age-friendly access and security systems
  • Age-friendly adjustments to communal areas and older people’s flats
  • Recruiting a new site-based Community Development Worker who can work hand-in-hand with tenants to realise the NORC model
  • Developing a new tenant-managed community space in the Hopton Court gardens

Hopton Hopefuls are now launching a background paper based on their research called Ageing Well in Place in Hulme which sets out the rationale for these objectives, in sometimes hard to read accounts of how older people have fallen through the gaps between health, housing and social care provision. These accounts set out the need for urgent action.

Read Ageing Well in Place in Hulme

Why “Ageing Well in Place”?

‘Ageing in place’ has become a popular policy term defined as ‘remaining living in the community, with some level of independence, rather than in residential care’. This approach is favoured by older people because it is seen to protect their autonomy, and connection to social support, including friends, neighbours and family. It is favoured also by policy-makers because it is seen to avoid or delay institutional alternatives and can therefore generate significant cost-savings across health and social care services.

However, there is also growing concern about the quality and appropriateness of housing stock to support ageing in place, and the need for significant levels of health and social care to ensure that quality of life of older residents is maintained ‘in place’.

Even though ageing in place can involve challenges, the evidence suggests that older people invariably have a strong emotional attachment to their familiar homes, and neighbourhoods and rarely wish to relocate in later life. Evidence for this has been reported across a range of environments, from inner-city areas to suburban and rural communities.

What is a NORC?

A number of approaches have been developed in response to the challenges facing people ageing in place, especially those living alone. Many of these have particular relevance to people living in low income communities. One idea – first developed in the mid-1980s in the USA – comes under the heading of a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC). A NORC is a term used to describe an age-integrated housing development or neighbourhood that originally contained different age groups, but which over time has become home to a concentration of older adults, 55 years of age and older.

New York has seen an extensive development of NORC programmes – often linked to high rise blocks with a large proportion of older residents. Typically, NORC programmes have been partnerships between a housing provider, its residents, and health and social service organisations collaborating to help older adults to age in place. The aim of the NORC is to
create opportunities for people to remain active in their community supported by, in the New York case, onsite social and health service supports and community-building activities:

‘Rather than just focusing on reacting to individuals in crisis – ‘one hip fracture at a time’ …the community itself plays an important role’ (Vladeck & Altman, 2015)

The NORC model is a good fit with the age-friendly approach pioneered in the UK by Manchester City Council. This model is also closely aligned with Manchester City Council’s recent emphasis on ‘Bringing Services Together’ at the neighbourhood scale which has been accelerated following the impact of COVID-19.

What can I do?

Hopton Hopefuls would like for the report to be read widely and to hear from anyone who has ideas or experiences to share that can help them on their journey to establishing Hopton as a pioneering NORC in Manchester. 

Please contact sophiek.class@gmail.com to send feedback or to set up a meeting.

Ageing Well in Place in Hulme is co-authored by Tina Cribbin, Anne Finnegan, Mark Hammond and Christopher Philipson.