Later Living: Ageing Happily

Jenny West Headshot
Jenny West
Marketing & HR Director, Future Street

Property Week has predicted Later Living is set to be the next major UK residential asset class. The true potential of the sector lies in taking a person-centred approach.  

In a new book, The Changing Mind (opens new window), Daniel Levitin enlightens us on five key secrets behind ageing well. A set of behaviours that can increase our capacity for happiness and enable us to age joyously.

All five are directly and indirectly able to be integrated within later living housing innovation. When properly understood, they inform the ingredients required for a later living operational real estate asset that is truly person-centred. An ethos to entice consumers to move and create the market.

Loneliness is widely recognised as a huge if silent killer

Due to the COVID-19 virus, we are all experiencing an increasing degree of social isolation that many older adults face daily. Social connection is essential and forms a central tenant of three of the five recommendations made by Levitin, a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist. The location must enable residents to be part of the fabric of society to associate with others. Feeling valued, contributing and continuing to engage with meaningful work in the shape and form suited to the individual is neuroprotective. The author describes how spending time with new people requires complex brain activity and even micro contact, with people you don’t know, is beneficial.

Secondly, the support, motivation and ability to adopt healthy practise, particularly in the form of diet and exercise. Being active versus sedentary makes the biggest difference of all in overall health. Since 2009, the HAPPI principles (10 key design criteria for housing our ageing population) have been integral to good design. Shared facilities and hubs are included and facilities such a gym and bistro are a second ingredient to the creation of a successful later living operational real estate asset.

Vision 2030

ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators) is the main body representing the 'Retirement Community' sector in the UK. By international standards, the sector is still in its infancy (c. 75,000 people) and their ambition is for 250,000 people to have the opportunity to live in 'Retirement Communities' by 2030 (Vision 2030). And, as highlighted by the Urban Land Institute (opens new window) in their housing with care guide, there is already huge unmet demand to provide housing, support and care for older people in the UK and, with an ageing population, these demands will become more pronounced.

The largest opportunity lies in the mid-market

To fulfil Vision 2030 would require more than 11,000 'housing with care' units to be built per annum for the next decade (compared to an average delivery rate of 3,220 for the last 10 years) (source: JLL Retirement Living - Delivering the opportunity (opens new window)). Whilst capitalist interest is predictably drawn to prime locations, unlocking mid-market locations will accelerate the supply. Knight Frank quantified in their report (opens new window) that around 2.2 million over-65 households live in a property with an average value of up to £250,000.

Turning traditional 'housing with care' right-side-up

In my view, later living innovation needs to emphasise wellness as many underlying health conditions can be improved upon or prevented. Helping to shift a system that reacts to illness to one that helps prevent or delay its onset and keeps people as well and independent as possible. 

“Wellness is derived from our ability to understand, accept and act upon our capacity to lead a purpose-filled and engaged life. In doing so, we can embrace our potential (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental, vocational) to pursue and optimize life’s possibilities” (International Council for Active Aging (opens new window))

To complement the HAPPI principles, and embody wellness, I believe we need to re-evaluate how we accommodate an ageing population for being well in later life. Our ‘WELL’ concept embraces the following criteria: Wellness. Empowerment. Living. Learning. We want to see more mid-market later living communities that are sustainable to develop and operate and are built using modern methods of construction. Essential components that serve as the catalyst to enable the time of our lives traditionally associated with a decline to be transformed into one of improved happiness and wellness and continued personal growth.

Like to know more about our mid-market later living concept? You can find out more at website (opens new window).

And for information on combatting loneliness and reducing social isolation in later life, visit the Housing LIN dedicated webpages


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