New study shows what kind of homes older people in UK want in retirement

The majority of older people in the UK have no plans in place for what kind of property they want to live in as the move through retirement, according to new research.

The provision of more homes suitable for retired people is a major cornerstone of the current debate over what kind of properties the nations needs to be building at a time when there is a chronic shortage for sale and to rent.

Now new research shows that 73% have no plans in place for retirement accommodation or their care provision in later life and 42% believe there is a lack of suitable properties in the UK to downsize into.

The study from Strutt & Parker also shows that 41% would like a six month trial before permanently moving into a retirement community and 17% would consider living in a professionally managed rental product, in other words a Build to Rent model.

‘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,’ said Stephanie McMahon, head of research at Strutt & Parker.

‘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,’ she pointed out.

As a result of the research the firm believes that what retired people want in terms of buying a home are mixed-use and mixed-age, urban or edge of community developments in towns, cities or large amenity rich villages.

According to Mike Adams, chief executive officer of Octopus Healthcare, the retirement housing market is undersupplied and there is a pressing need for well-designed and well-located stock.

‘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,’ he pointed out.

The research also found that 33% want lower maintenance such as modern homes that require less upkeep, or developments with on-site maintenance are particularly attractive to older residents.

Some 26% are looking for accessible homes with level thresholds, fewer stairs and walk-in showers while 23% want a smaller house of two or three bedrooms which still provides space for hobbies, guests or storage.

Along with this 22% wish to reduce outgoings and a recently built home is seen as typically reduce outgoings by providing better insulation and energy efficiency compared with older properties and 20% still want a garden but smaller as outside space is regarded as 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.

‘To effect change, developers must meet the aspirations of a new generation of retirement residents,’ said Richard Harris, head of retirement development at Strutt & Parker.

‘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,’ he added.

According to McMahon better housing options for those moving into retirement through encouraging multi-generational communities and amenity rich neighbourhoods, should make it possible to reduce under occupation in the UK.

‘That said, successful downsizing is about choice and not social obligation. To create attractive home 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,’ she added.