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No country for young people: The problems of accelerating rural-urban age segregation

Old and young are living further apart

This report investigated the profound changes in where older and younger people live in England and Wales over the past 20 years mean. It compares Census data from 2001, 2011 and 2021:

  • Rural areas have aged more than twice as fast as urban areas
  • Areas where over-50s are most of the population have increased almost sevenfold.
  • The most rural areas have aged more than four times as much as major urban areas.
  • The percentage of areas where under-25s are the majority of the population has increased by more than one-third (33%).
  • The generations are literally living further apart than ever.

Researchers argue that the housing crisis is clearly driving this trend, with young people locked out from rural areas and older generations increasingly choosing to live more rurally. While ‘escaping to the country’ may sound like the perfect retirement dream, the reality is that unprecedented rural ageing comes with personal and wider societal costs. Geographic age segregation keeps young people out of the countryside with all the amenities on offer there, and makes it more expensive to provide services for older people, such as nursing, social care, gardening and retail.

The report warns that accelerating geographic divides by age also risk undermining intergenerational cohesion and understanding, increasing political polarisation and embedding ageist attitudes up as well as down the generations.

IF’s 10-point policy recommendations:

1. Build more homes to buy: more homes for all types of people, especially affordable homes for the young and retirement homes for older people
2. Build more homes to rent: more affordable rental properties rurally and semi-rurally
3. Build more homes for downsizers: the right homes in the right location at the right price
4. Encourage downsizing-in-situ: encourage older generations to subdivide their homes and share neighbourhoods
5. Combat nimbyism
6. Give up some greenbelt: give up environmentally poor parts for building new homes
7. Live together: encourage greater intergenerational living, decrease isolation and loneliness. Promote the Rent-a-room Scheme
8. Build to share: create new mixed housing developments that different generations can share
9. Increase density in urban cores: build up with more shared outside spaces
10. Level-up rural areas: promote economic development outside urban areas so that young people are able to remain in their local area


Supported by the Land Promoters and Developers Federation