By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive of Places for
Talk of our current housing need is firmly focused on
first time buyers and families. But there is very insufficient
provision for older people too and that needs to change.
Our population is ageing fast. There are now more people
in the UK aged 60 and above than there are under 18 and in the next
17 years, the number of people aged 65 and over is projected to
rise by more than 40%.
To meet the needs of our growing older generation, we need
to change the way we plan our cities, towns and villages, including
paving the way for new retirement villages.
Developing retirement properties that can meet the
changing needs of older people will make a positive contribution to
the wider housing market as well as local communities. But it needs
a better understanding of our older generation and their
The over 55s are a huge group made up of different
generations with different expectations and aims and many of them
don't consider themselves 'old'. In fact, research suggests that
people tend to see themselves as 15 years younger than their
That means both the building and service offering at a
retirement village must target a younger market, including offering
contemporary homes that are easy to look after. Most importantly
however, the properties must still feel like home.
At a recent focus group we held, attendees told us they
want a smaller and homelier environment that's not impersonal with
a selection of more targeted facilities and services.
Older people don't want their life organising or to change
dramatically. And although they may not need it now, they may
require care and support in their later years, and the 'comfort
blanket' of a 24-hour presence onsite is an important
Meeting those aspirations means planning retirement
developments carefully and building them in places where residents
can still easily access the people, facilities and amenities
they're used to. The environment must feel secure but not
disconnected from local communities.
Local councils are key to this. We need them to free
up more land for retirement villages and promote them as positive
additions to both local communities and the rest of the housing
market as they will play a vital role in freeing up other
Central Government has an important role to play
too. The commitments in the White Paper to do further work to
tackle the barriers older people face when moving are welcome and
we are looking forward to working with Government on
But there is more to do. Government should abolish
stamp duty for those buying in a retirement village removing
another major blocker for those seeking to move into a more
And given that much needed new retirement villages are
targeted at a restricted group with far higher levels of internal
and external infrastructure, there should be a specific planning
use class to offer similar benefits to C2, but also to remove
uncertainty and inconsistency at a local level.
These changes won't happen overnight but as our older
population continues to expand at our rapid rate, we need to act
Designed and located correctly, retirement developments
have the potential to meet the needs of a huge group of people who
currently are not considered in the housing debate. If we can meet
the expectations and future demands of the older generation, we can
not only ensure they have the home and lifestyle they deserve, but
unlock a vital part of the solution that could help address the
This blog first appeard on
Inside Housing on 28 February 2017.
28 February 2017