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Who is looking forward to getting old?

The Vicar of Cherry Hinton, Revd Karin Voth Harman, has a vision for how churches in the Diocese can get involved in an exciting new project to transform the lives of older people in the Diocese. 

She has written a short article, below, explaining the project. The project is particularly interested to know of any unused areas of land which are in PCC ownership which could potentially provide a site for the project. 

Please get in contact with Karin if you would like to get involved with this project – whether you can suggest a potential site or not.

Who’s looking forward to getting old?

by Revd Karin Voth Harman

Britain is perhaps one of the worse countries in which to do it. The pandemic has exposed ever more shocking shortcomings in our social and residential care systems. Everyone agrees ‘something must be done’ - but large scale improvements seem impossible to envision – let alone finance.

In other countries, churches offer models that just might work here. In the USA many older people opt to live in ‘Continuing Care Retirement Communities’ (CCRCs) which provide for their needs, whatever they are, from the point of entry to the point of death.

This means Independent Living (in flats and houses), Assisted Living (help with dressing, meals, etc.) Rehabilitation (units for those recovering from operations or strokes) and Memory Care (units for those with advanced dementia) all on one campus, with many activities, a restaurant or dining hall, gardens, allotments, perhaps a pool, gym, shop, hair salon - and staff all working to bring people together - keeping at bay the dreadful isolation which engulfs so many older people.

People chose to retire to these ‘campuses’ because they offer so much fun… as well as security and peace of mind.

Many of these CCRCs are, in the States, founded by churches. Each denomination seems to have at least one CCRC in every major city. They are run as non-profits employing chaplains and encouraging a lot of interaction between local churches, local schools, and the residents of the community.

In this Diocese a group of people, offering a wide range of relevant experience, has begun to coalesce around the idea of providing this type of Christian community in our country. The Diocese of Ely, with its wealth of land, would be a wonderful place to build a flagship campus which could become a beacon of hope - and a model for other dioceses to follow.

Some of the land in the Diocese is still held by parishes and a Continuing Care Retirement Community might be a really missional as well as financially fulfilling way of utilising this land. We would be interested in speaking to any parish who own a substantial plot of land - even if that land is designated green belt.

This kind of development might well receive planning permission where other kinds of development wouldn’t. And the rental of your land to such a community would provide very significant funds for the parish in perpetuity. Churches in the States do not invest in these communities from entirely altruistic motives!

Imagine how exciting it would be to shape a Christian vision for the last chapter of life - to create a community, open to all, but infused with a Christian ethos, offering opportunities for outreach, worship and fellowship right to the end of life. This just could be the most successful - and financially viable - ‘fresh expression’ of church imaginable!

If you feel you’d like to get involved (even if you have no land), please contact:

Revd Karin Voth Harman at


Page last updated: Wednesday 1st December 2021 10:01 AM
First published on: 1st December 2021
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