About the project

The Collaborative Housing and Innovation in Care (CHIC) project is a two-and-a-half-year study funded by the National Institute of Health Research School for Social Care Research. The project began in March 2021, and its broad aim is to explore the ways in which collaborative housing might help meet the changing care needs of older people.  

What is collaborative housing? 

Collaborative housing is a term that refers to a wide range of different housing models from cohousing (both so-called ‘senior’ or intergenerational cohousing), housing co-operatives, self-managed retirement developments as well as other forms. The term does not describe a particular model of ownership, but what is essential is that the residents of a collaborative housing scheme must be in control of their housing in a meaningful sense: all decisions are taken by the residents, with no external agency having a say in who might live in the community, or what services are used.  

Collaborative housing and care in later life 

In the context of a chronically underfunded social care system that is already failing to meet the needs of more than a million people over the age of 65, together with a lack of decent housing choices for people in later life, there is a widely acknowledged and urgent need for innovations that address this intersection of housing, ageing and care. Such innovations need to respond to contemporary trends in ageing that include the rising numbers of older people living alone, the growing numbers of self-funders of adult social care, and a greater wish for real independence and control over how we live in later life. 

Supporters of collaborative housing believe that it might be a more supportive and caring environment to live in as we get older, when compared to other later life housing options. However, there is a lack of good quality research to back this up. 

Our research 

Our overarching question for the study is: can collaborative housing meet the changing care needs of older people? 

To explore this question, we are planning in-depth studies of a number of collaborative housing communities that are well established, where some or all of the members are older, and where there are members with care and support needs. The research will involve interviewing individuals, holding workshops, and observing how groups live and manage their community and individual care needs on a day-to-day basis. We will also speak with key people involved with these communities in roles such as planning and development, to gain a wider picture. Groups thinking about taking part can find some more detailed information here.

In doing the research, some of the more specific questions we aim to address are: 

  • What role do the daily practices of sharing and mutual support play in the care of older residents? 
  • How does mutual aid and support within groups work alongside formal and informal social care?  
  • How does the arrangement of the housing itself relate to the development of mutual support among residents? (including the physical design, living arrangements, spaces for social interaction and community policies) 
  • What is the potential for translating these practices of and approaches to collaboration and mutual aid into other accommodation settings such as extra care and supported housing, and even more widely in general needs housing? 

The first wave of field work will be carried out over the summer and autumn of 2021, with a second wave – revisiting the same communities – to be done over the same period in 2022. 

As well as updating on our progress, we intend to share our findings at the end of the project, with the aim of raising a wider public awareness of collaborative housing and its potential to meet changing care needs in later life. 

The CHIC project is led by Professor Karen West, Professor of Social Policy and Ageing at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (karen.west@bristol.ac.uk), working with team members from the University of Bristol, Lancaster University and the LSE London.

Full details of all the members of our research team, as well as the members of our advisory group, can be found by visiting the links on the right-hand side of this page.