Later living: it’s never been more about people

Whatever your involvement in the housing sector, it won’t have gone unnoticed that the idea of housing as a ‘community’ concept is now more important than ever before.

From a developer perspective, the days of the success of a residential development being purely evaluated on the number of units it provides are long gone and likewise residents themselves are now demanding more holistic benefits from their homes.

So, with 2020 heralding the start of a new decade, what themes are likely to shape our vision and thinking in the coming years?

More than just a roof over the head

Every single person needs a home. From first time buyers to older generations, having an environment where they feel safe and secure is extremely important. However, as residents’ requirements change across the spectrum, what is housing for older people going to look like?

One thing is for certain, the days of retirement or later living accommodation being only considered ‘old peoples’ homes’ are long gone and developers, providers and local authorities are harnessing the health and social wellbeing benefits that community living can bring to residents.

Research (opens new window) undertaken by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust in 2018 found that living in a retirement community, as opposed to in isolation or in other types of accommodation, brought numerous health benefits to residents.

  • NHS costs were drastically reduced
  • Reduced number of routine and regular GP visits
  • Unplanned hospital stays dropped
  • Anxiety symptoms in residents dropped by 23%

And these are just a handful of the benefits.

The statistics don’t lie and if the UK is to really start addressing the later living sector, then housing for older people mustn’t be an afterthought. Well-planned, holistic accommodation solutions can bring unimaginable benefits to residents, improving health and quality of life.

Breaking the intergenerational barriers

Perhaps 2020 is the year where the barriers between accommodation for older people and the rest of the market are truly broken down? Some developers are beginning to realise this, integrating housing for older people into open market schemes, but especially as the face of urban housing development changes, are we going to see this becoming even more commonplace?

Let’s hope so. Having separate and distinct schemes for ‘young’ and ‘old’ works in some cases, but intergenerational – or co-living – schemes are an area more people should be exploring. The sense of community that can be created, along with the social interaction created by fostering a rich, multigenerational development, is striking and can bring widespread benefits to all residents, both young and old.

Should fully-mutual communities make a comeback?

2020 may be the start of a new decade but could we see older forms of ownership coming back into fashion? Fully-mutual ownership schemes, where owners become ‘members’ of the scheme and, with the permission of a fully-mutual housing association, can be granted contractual (read: never ending) tenancies, have been around for years, but could be brought into the later living space.

This idea was trailed in 2016’s HAPPI 3 report, which explored the benefits that fully-mutual schemes could bring to both providers and residents. The larger deposit needed to access a mutual scheme, rather than being a blocker, could open up this type of accommodation to those who may not have the capital to hand to buy outright, whilst giving them control of the place where they live. Add onto this the fact that mutual schemes offer indefinite lease terms and security of tenure and this could be an exciting new – but old – ownership model coming back into the market for 2020.

"Later living is about helping older people live happy, healthy lives in places where they want to be.” It’s all about people

Retirement living, later living, housing for the Third Age, however it’s badged, is ultimately all about people. The types of accommodation provided is important but should form part of an all-encompassing solution which helps older people live happy, healthy lives in places where they want to be. Last year, Shakespeare Martineau and the Housing LIN discussed a number of issues facing this part of the housing market in our joint report, Shining a spotlight on the hidden housing market (opens new window), and it’s encouraging to see that many of the issues – including supply, design, planning – are being addressed and discussed. However, there is always more work to be done!

The later living sector is in a state of evolution and with some of the brightest minds striving to make real change, 2020 is certainly going to be a decade to watch.

Shakespeare Martineau are a sponsor of the Housing LIN’s annual conference Vision 2020 on 26 March in Manchester.


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