Future proofing retirement housing in England

Supply of retirement communities needs to be boosted by a third over the next 20 years to keep up with demographic change, finds new report ..

New research launched today by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC) – the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society – highlights that population ageing will lead to increasing numbers of people suited for retirement communities – housing designed specifically with emerging care needs in mind – in England over the next 20 years:

  • To keep up with age-related growth, the sector will need to boost the supply of retirement communities by over a third by 2040 – and there’s no time to delay, as an 8.8% growth will be needed by 2025 alone.
  • The target age demographic for retirement communities will increase in numbers by nearly 10% in most English regions in the next five years alone. The largest growth will be seen in London, where the sector will need to supply one additional property for every two just to keep up with this trend.
  • Retirement housing for single women will continue to dominate the sector, but trends in single men and multi-adult households – mainly couples – will increasingly create significant market opportunity over the next 20 years.

While it is too early to know the concrete, long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on England’s housing market, the report argues for optimism in the retirement community sector. Growing housing equity may well-position future cohorts of homeowners to afford moves into retirement communities and further drive increased demand.

The report also argues that, in addition to demographic and financial trends, what people want – preferences such as satisfaction with housing and a desire to age in place – are a key driver of demand for retirement housing.

ILC calls on the retirement community sector to adapt to these trends and take advantage of the growth opportunities available in the future.

Dr Brian Beach, Senior Research Fellow at ILC, said:

“When it comes to retirement housing, what people want matters. Housing is a key component for people’s well-being across the life course. But in later life, it becomes especially crucial that an individual’s home provides a good fit to their needs. Retirement communities are designed to offer this – homes that fit current needs and adapt to future ones. While it is crucial that the sector boosts the supply of retirement communities in response to the age-driven growth that is expected, it is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Individualisation to meet personal needs and circumstances and innovative approaches to harness new market opportunities will strengthen the sector’s ability to meet growing demand.”

Peter Aldous MP, Chair of the APPG on housing and care for older people, added:

“The ICL’s report sets out a tremendous opportunity for the retirement housing sector over the coming decades, with demographic changes, a strong financial underpinning and shifting cultural attitudes all likely to raise demand significantly.  However, as the report also demonstrates, stakeholders within the sector must adapt their approaches to ensure that they can not only meet this increased demand but provide a supply of housing which caters for the needs of residents. The findings of this report are particularly pertinent for my constituency of Waveney, where the retired population exceeds the national average.”

Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor Hanover, said:

“The changing needs of our ageing society mean demand for specialist housing and care is strong and growing. We need to increase the number of options available to older people in the post-pandemic world. The focus should not just be on building homes but building the right homes, which can aid the economic recovery and the delivery of vital services. Addressing later-living housing needs and providing a wider range of options for older people will help all generations fulfil their aspirations.”  

Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said:

“The UK has fallen badly behind other countries in its provision of housing-with-care for older people. This means that older people in the UK are far less likely to have a the option of retaining their independence whilst receiving care and support as and when they need it. The case for helping to keep people independent for longer is now overwhelming from both a care and an economic angle – it is clear that there is now a strong consensus that retirement communities must play a decisive role in our care system in the decade ahead.”

The report will be launched at a virtual event on Thursday 18 February. For more information and to register, visit Report launch: What we want – Future-proofing retirement housing in England.

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