My grandmother always told me that “until you’re 80, nothing changes, but after that your knees start to be sore when you get out of bed”.
While I hope I feel as good as she did for as long as she did, this shows the great disparity in how we all age.
Retiring should be something to look forward to, but our health concerns increase as we age, making an active lifestyle more complicated. Most people eventually suffer a fall or accident. It then becomes an urgent necessity to move into ‘care’ – a hard decision in tough circumstances.
To continue living the most fulfilling life possible, the right decision is to move into a good housing community.
We already have an ageing population, with one in five Brits aged 65 or over today. However, the UK’s current stock of ‘retirement housing’ has nowhere near enough volume to be able to cope.
Furthermore, cash-strapped local authorities will struggle to deliver the homes needed. Later-living housing has to be the next booming residential asset class in the UK.
While the sector is still tiny compared with that of mature markets like Australia, New Zealand and the US, there is a potential requirement for an additional 725,000 care and retirement homes by 2025, according to JLL, meaning activity needs to be ramped up over the next few years.
Like any new sector, later living will have to overcome a number of challenges if it is to fulfil its potential. Ensuring that new schemes are designed to appeal not just to today’s pensioners but tomorrow’s will be key.
Location and design play a crucial role in creating desirable homes. Three quarters of homeowners and renters over 65 surveyed by Knight Frank last year said having a later-living scheme close to town centres was important. It will take more than bingo and views of cows grazing in a field to make people who grew up listening to the Beatles and The Rolling Stones move home!
Making these schemes aspirational and places where we would all want to live, regardless of age, will be key to appeal to boomers. The developments must be characterful and homely, incorporating care in an unobtrusive way and allowing residents to live their lives.
When designing schemes, we must be conscious of the fact that the single greatest cause of physical and mental health problems for the elderly is isolation; we must balance privacy and sociability while enabling independence without loneliness, through skilful design.
Promoting intergenerational living and enabling residents of different ages to interact can also help tackle loneliness, as well as improve wellbeing and the social connectivity of our towns and cities.
Development location, context, character and layout are obviously key within design, but there is so much more we can do. And in the current unprecedented times, it is more crucial than ever to provide safe and secure homes and communities for the older generation, as well as protecting the generations to come.
By building these developments and fostering a sense of community within them, we can put a stop to the isolation and loneliness that many elderly people face every day – not just when there’s a global pandemic.
Félicie Krikler is director of Assael Architecture