What Baby Boomers really want from retirement housing

The UK has an ageing population and is seeing the large 20-year demographic ‘bump’ of Baby Boomers moving through retirement. This generation, born in the years following the Second World War, has high expectations when it comes to the quality of life and standard of accommodation it will enjoy as it ages.

New research from Strutt & Parker and Octopus Healthcare investigates the needs and desires of the retirement generation by surveying over 2,200 respondents from across the UK aged 65 years or older. The Platinum Generation survey revealed four key insights into retirement accommodation:

  • 73% of respondents have no plans in place for retirement accommodation or their care provision in later life;
  • 42% believe there is a lack of suitable properties in the UK to downsize into;
  • 41% would like a six-month trial before permanently moving into a retirement community;
  • 17% would consider living in a professionally managed rental product, in other words a Build to Rent model.

Stephanie McMahon, Head of Research at Strutt & Parker, said, “Our research shows that there is a clear need for a new breed of retirement communities in the UK. The Baby Boomers have voiced objections to living in the same way as their parents in retirement. Often in good health, with decent pensions and active lifestyles, they want to live where they can continue to enjoy their established way of life, minus the day job.

“They want access to local culture and recreational facilities – such as theatres, farmers’ markets and swimming pools – but also accommodation that is flexible enough to meet their future care requirements. Through our research, we have identified a potential solution which we call Platinum Places. These are mixed-use and mixed-age, urban or edge-of-community developments in towns, cities or large amenity-rich villages.”

Mike Adams, CEO of Octopus Healthcare, said, “For the property industry, there are compelling reasons to deliver retirement housing: the demographics are supportive, the market is undersupplied and there is a pressing need for well-designed and well-located stock. However, there is a hefty shortfall of housing currently available for the Baby Boomer generation. Only 2% of the UK’s stock is designated as retirement accommodation and it houses just 1% of Britons in their 60s. The number of retirement homes being developed has also decreased dramatically, from 30,000 per year in 1980s to 8,000 per year today.”

The Platinum Generation survey revealed the six top reasons that those aged 65-plus decided to look for a new home:

  1. 34% need more support – requiring help or a ‘crisis event’ are historically the biggest motivators for moving.
  2. 33% seek lower maintenance – modern homes that require less upkeep, or developments with on-site maintenance are particularly attractive to older residents.
  3. 26% are looking for accessible homes – with level thresholds, fewer stairs and walk-in showers.
  4. 23% want a smaller house of two or three bedrooms which still provides space for hobbies, guests or storage.
  5. 22% wish to reduce outgoings – a recently built home will typically reduce outgoings by providing better insulation and energy efficiency compared with older properties.
  6. 20% seek a smaller garden – outside space is important, for relaxation or pets, but keeping it to a manageable size is crucial.

Age UK estimates that 25% of over-65s would be interested in buying a retirement property. The current lack of suitable accommodation is having a negative impact on the wider housing market, with empty-nesters lacking an incentive to downsize and staying in their existing family homes. There is less housing stock available for younger buyers as a result.

According to Age UK, if just half of the 58% of over-60s who are interested in moving were able to do so, it would release £356 billion worth of property into the market, of which nearly half would be three-bedroom homes.

Richard Harris, Head of Retirement Development at Strutt & Parker, explained, “To effect change, developers must meet the aspirations of a new generation of retirement residents. While a minority are financially footloose and able to make use of their increased spare time with travel and leisure activities, the majority are concerned about the affordability of future health and care needs, their ability to stay independent and their access to friends, family and companionship. Consequently, retirement developments that incorporate good public transport, a sense of community and access to health and leisure activities are most likely to succeed.”

Stephanie McMahon concluded, “By presenting better housing options for those moving into retirement, by encouraging multi-generational communities and amenity-rich neighbourhoods, it should be possible to reduce under-occupation in the UK. That said, successful downsizing is about choice and not social obligation. To create attractive Platinum Places, all of the industry players – developers, operators and government – will need to work together to work together to build housing fit for the Platinum Generation.”

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