Study reveals chasm between supply and demand in retirement housing

December 20, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Study reveals chasm between supply and demand in retirement housing

A survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Retirement Homesearch shows that 19% of UK over-50s believe it is ‘likely’ that they will spend their autumn years in a purpose-built retirement community.

Yet such housing comprises just 2% of existing housing stock – meaning that a vast demand remains unfulfilled.

1,000 over-50s were asked first whether they were likely to move into a specialist retirement community, and then what factors were most important to them in deciding where to live in retirement.

If the results are taken as representative of the UK over-50s population, it would mean around 4.5 million people competing for around 500,000 retirement homes.

Retirement Homesearch Managing Director, Nick Freeth, said, “We were looking to take a snapshot of changing priorities in choosing retirement living arrangements. The expectation is that a ‘new generation’ of retirees anticipate a more active retirement, that we are increasingly seeking entertainment and healthy activity over the community-centred life that so appealed to earlier retirees.

“This isn’t exactly the picture that comes out of our results. It looks very much as though there is a problem of public perception – many say they don’t want to move to a specialist retirement community, and those who tell us that they are interested in doing so are concerned that they should live amongst some diversity.

“This suggests that the public still don’t understand the market offering. The image they have in their heads is of the old warden-controlled ‘old people’s homes’. Modern retirement living is a far cry from that.

“But overwhelmingly, the message from this survey is that, despite any image problem, there is far, far more demand for retirement living than the market can satisfy. There is good reason to believe that this will hold true and that it means a very strong future for the retirement housing market.”

The survey was undertaken in partnership with the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK).

The ILC-UK’s Dr Brian Beach said, “It would be over-simplistic to suggest that the housing crisis could be resolved just through older people downsizing to make homes available for younger households – but the retirement housing market does play a role.

“This survey confirms that demand in the UK greatly outstrips supply and gives stakeholders in this market an idea of where priorities might best be focused to serve older consumers.

“At the same time, the survey shows that there is work to do to raise awareness around retirement, as we can see persisting inaccurate stereotypes and a disconnect between what people want from retirement and what they are likely to need.”

Some further key results:

The most important factor in choosing a retirement home is ‘character of the surrounding environment’, with 93% of respondents rating this as very or fairly important.

  • 53% rated ‘leisure facilities’ as fairly or very unimportant. We interpret the results as suggesting that respondents intend, as retirees, to go for walks to keep active, rather than engage in sports – thus the surrounding environment is more important than swimming pools, golf courses, or the bowling greens of retirement cliché.
  • 93% rated ‘being near to medical services’ as very or fairly important and 80% rated care services as fairly or very important. Unsurprisingly, older respondents to the survey valued these aspects even higher. This perhaps suggests that, pre-retirement, people don’t have a realistic idea of their needs in old age.
  • 86% of respondents rated ‘being near to retail facilities’ as important or very important. This survey was conducted online, so respondents are internet-savvy. Yet they are clear that they still want high street shops close at hand.
  • 88% said that security (e.g. low crime rate, CCTV coverage, concierge, etc.) was important or very important.
  • 78% rated ‘Being near to my family’ as important or very important. Our results suggest retirees like the idea of being close to family… but are perhaps more likely to move somewhere offering natural beauty!
  • 54% rated ‘living amongst diverse people’ as unimportant or very unimportant. But a significantly higher proportion of those ‘likely’ to move to a retirement community rated it as important (59% of those who are very likely, as opposed to just 39% of those unlikely or not at all likely).
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