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“we recognise there is a real need to create affordable, sustainable homes for older people”, Professor Gokay Deveci

Robert Gordon University’s Orkney Project has welcomed a major funding boost to create a co-housing development for older people in Orkney.

Hope CoHousing in Orkney has been awarded over £48,000 from the Inspiring Scotland’s Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund, to establish Scotland’s only entirely rental cohousing scheme at St. Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay.

Link: Funding Boost to Hope CoHousing Project

This innovative project has been designed in partnership with a multi-disciplinary team from Robert Gordon University who worked in collaboration with the Hope Co-Housing Community Group and Orkney Islands Council.

The co-housing scheme would create six, affordable low energy modern houses, specially adapted with shared communal areas for recreational and creative activities and a shared garden to encourage older people to live independently.

The over-riding aim of the project is to support people to ‘age positively’ and to create social housing that will support health and wellbeing, activity and community engagement as people age. This would tackle issues surrounding social isolation, loneliness, and fuel poverty, often experienced by older people in the community. 

Lead architect for the project, Professor Gokay Deveci from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment at Robert Gordon University, in partnership with Orkney Islands Council and Hope Cohousing, successfully attracted a £10,000 funding grant in 2019 from the Scottish Government Islands Housing Fund to after carry out a feasibility study.

Professor Deveci said:

“The new funding grant from Scotland’s Rural Communities Ideas Action Fund offers a real boost for the Hope-Co-housing project in Orkney.

“Working in partnership with Hope Co-housing, we recognise there is a real need to create affordable, sustainable homes for older people to create a lasting community benefit.  Orkney has an ageing population and one of the highest levels of fuel poverty in Scotland. There is also a shortage of affordable private-sector housing, exacerbated by second home ownership. 

“This project would address Orkney’s socio-economic needs and offer a new sustainable housing design based around technology that supports active ageing. With co-housing still in its infancy in the UK, RGU’s research and the Hope Co-housing scheme could be used as a blue-print for other community-led housing projects in rural and island locations. 

“It is fantastic that the Hope Co-housing project has been offered this funding grant and we are a step closer to achieving this innovative social project which will enable residents to remain independent for longer.”

Hope Cohousing members meeting in the local community garden.

Jenny Rambridge, Director of Hope Cohousing said:

“We are delighted to have received this funding grant and to be in a position to move forward with the preconstruction costs for St. Margaret’s Hope. There is so much community backing for the project, and it is great to have the support from The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment at RGU and Orkney Islands Council.”

The project has drawn on research from Robert Gordon University’s School of Health Sciences who explored physical activity and wellbeing. It has also used digital assistance technology to support active ageing, working with researchers from RGU’s School of Computing. In recognition of the project’s success, the Hope Cohousing development was shortlisted for Innovate UK as Healthy Ageing Trailblazers. 

National statistics from the Centre for Ageing Better, demonstrate that there are currently almost 12 million people aged 65 and over in the UK, with 3.2 million aged 80 and over. By 2036, it’s estimated that one in four of the population will be over 65. With life expectancy increasing and the number of people in later life growing rapidly, this is putting additional strains on health and social services as the older population typically have more complex medical needs.

With modern lifestyles, carers from within the family are also less available, as more people tend to live alone and families live further apart with increased levels of relocation for work. In this changing scenario, it is important that we help people with medical or social needs to live independently for longer and so reduce their reliance on more expensive health care solutions.