I agree with the conclusions of this research that freeing up housing currently occupied by the over 65s could relieve pressure on the health and social care services, particularly hospital bed spaces because in many cases homes are not suitable or safe for senior patients. But I don't believe downsizing will help relieve pressure as much as the researchers might hope for, mainly due to a couple of reasons that come immediately to mind:
- many of those who can afford to downsize aren't necessarily in homes that most could afford anyway; and
- as many developer/operators will attest, the real hurdle is convincing people to leave their homes - we're a nation of freehold lovers! (As a result, I understand that the average age of purchasers for some developer/operators is late 70s/early 80s).
Much of the focus on developing schemes for the senior market is at the luxury end, which not everyone can afford. What should be said about these schemes though is the high quality of amenities and services on offer – we recently reported on the Retirement Villages Group acquisition of a site in West Byfleet, Surrey. RVGs intentions are to develop a retirement-led, mixed-use scheme anticipated to provide 199 apartments plus a wellness centre with new public realm featuring a pedestrianised square enclosed by retail, leisure and a new library and public car park. In keeping with RVGs other schemes, a strong sense of community is key which no doubt leads to better physical and mental health outcomes. In fact, the research that went into producing the ‘Healthier and Happier’ report states that “each person living in a Homes for Later Living property [housing with support or housing with care] enjoys a reduced risk of health challenges, contributing to fiscal savings to the NHS and social care services of almost £3,500 per year.”
But how are we going to house an older generation at an affordable rate so that they too can benefit from these better physical and mental health outcomes?
In my view, the real fix is to deliver more genuinely affordable housing, both for purchase and rent and for a diverse group of people (traditional purchasers, senior people, keyworkers and those who were homeless at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and were housed temporarily) to provide a more permanent solution.
Take a look at the Homes for Later Living report below.