Mixed provision in a mixed retirement market

Posted on March 6th, by geoff in Caring Times, CT blog. 2 comments

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

A man recently wrote to my local paper objecting to retirement units being built near to the centre of the town where I live.

“There is already more than enough retirement housing in the town,” he wrote. “Do we want to become a community of geriatrics?”

He has a point, particularly as younger people are being priced out of the town’s housing market. The writer mentioned that he himself was a pensioner in his 70s so we may assume that he enjoys living in a multigenerational community.

But around the country the township demographic is getting older and yet the supply of ‘age qualified’ housing in the UK is only about 0.05%, compared to the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where it ranges between 5 and 7%.

‘Retirement villages’ and the like are enjoying a period of growth in an economy where the elderly population as a whole is ‘asset rich’. Many oldsters are attracted by the lifestyle they offer but equally, many prefer to remain in the community in which they have spent the greater part of their lives.

The housing market is a mess, with younger people being exiled to the more affordable dormitory suburbs and elderly couples occupying four bedroom family houses in town centres. The self-pay market, both for care homes and retirement housing will continue to evolve as the asset-rich elderly generation passes.

We must hope that in the meantime, age-qualified housing models do not exacerbate the ageism already endemic in modern society.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

2 responses to “Mixed provision in a mixed retirement market”

  1. T Stein says:

    This is such a horrendously complex issue. I fear nobody has any solution and we’ll revert to doing what we always do – abandoning long term planning and falling back on getting out of it what we can right here, right now.
    Do we want to create elderly ghettos? Quite literally sweeping our elderly out of mainstream society and putting them out to pasture? Well, to some this is attractive, to others, like my mum, an utter abhorrence. Does encouraging the elderly to move to smaller properties assist with the current housing problem? Probably not, as it seems everyone wants to live in the South east and most of these freed-up properties are inconveniently located north of Watford Gap.
    Should we encourage builders and planners to create multigenerational developments where a mixed society provides inclusion for the elderly and proximity to younger people who provide care and support? Possibly, but I suspect builders will do with this as they do with social housing quotas and find ways to avoid building anything that doesn’t maximise their profits.
    We could of course seek to find a better way of delivering a holistic housing solution. Encouraging businesses to move away from the south east to areas of the country where there is a surplus of cheap housing and space to build – the North West and South Yorkshire as good examples. We could re-vitalise dying towns, building age-assistive (I don’t like the expression age-appropriate) accommodation – bungalows, flats with lifts, and doorways and corridors wide enough for mobility scooters where the elderly could remain part of the communities in which they’ve lived, close to shops and family. Or, we could carry on doing what we’re doing and scratching around for more green belt to build on in the south east .

  2. It should be noted that the Office for National Statistics, in its latest projections, has forecast that the number of people in the general population aged 65 and over will rise from the current c. 14% to 20% by 2025, and 25% by 2045, so even if we’re not a ‘community of geriatrics’, we will undoubtedly have more older people (a better phrase) in our communities.

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