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Later living: what is the opportunity for the UK housing market?

Later living is a fascinating emerging market – and arguably one that is essential to UK society as its over-65 population looks set to grow to 12.2 million by 2040. At a recent talk by Paula Broadbent, managing director of Lovell Later Living, some interesting and valuable points worth noting were made – including why the housing industry should be thinking differently about later living and the needs of those over 65 years of age?

While extra care housing has traditionally been dominated by housing associations, this provision has proven to not be enough. The industry needs to consider the societal impact of the 6.2 million currently living in a standard, none-adapted homes, along with more than 8 million over-80s who live alone, often in one room without the support they need to live a full life. Furthermore, trillions of pounds of owner wealth is occupied by older people, while a high number of locked hospital beds add immense pressure on social services, furthering the housing crisis.

Why should central government, local authorities, investors and construction leaders care?

While millions of older people live in unsuitable homes for their needs, many 18+ house hunters are struggling to find properties to get onto the ladder, ultimately meaning we need more homes than are being built. We also need to consider the long-term economic impact of those waiting to start families until they move into their first homes – and often having less children as a result.

A very condensed version of Paula’s insights included a focus on improved coordination throughout the supply chain, with a need to make planning less disjointed. A focus on creating test cases and tapping into personal passions to form strong partnerships to work towards intergenerational communities being considered during master planning.

Construction leaders need to think about innovation and efficiency and to see through the eyes of the purchaser to be creative with their products. This is essential to boost the current number of around 7,000 later living homes currently being created each year, to the minimum annual requirement of 50,000.  

The Lovell focus is on these partnerships and innovative solutions to challenge how things are done, moving towards the completion of projects that will provide real life data, including testimonials around the customer journey. This driving of innovation and efficiency into housing design will in turn drive the supply chain and how it responds. This creates consistency, which ultimately drives the speed and efficiency needed for real change.

Paula discussed the Lovell Later Living schemes that offer a broad variety of house types, tapping into specific local needs such as higher rates of required dementia care to gain the support of local authority partners. She highlighted how on one Lovell project, a building has been designed as a housing product that can be compartmentalised into extra care provision to meet today’s demand. The building can also be changed later if needed – with this adaptability built in to appeal to investors to secure the currently elusive funding for later living projects.

The later living provision should be designed in response to what customers want. But it should also consider what will make them a more attractive proposition to people than staying in their current home, such as there being no service charge, no exit fees or covenants and the option of freehold properties.

There is clearly a need to think differently about later living and serving older communities. Paula’s ethos is that now is the time to challenge the status quo in relation to extra care and intergenerational communities – with a need for creative housing design delivering solutions driven by what customers in the UK want. Local government is starting to pay attention following the “People at the Heart of Care” whitepaper, so now is a good time to act.  

One of Paula’s final points summarises the current market position well – “business as usual is just not acceptable” – both from an economical and societal perspective, especially while the door is now open for an opportunity for change. Much like in other European countries and America, later living and retirement communities can be aspirational in the UK if delivered correctly.

If the wider property and construction sector would view later living through their own and their family’s eyes, while giving older people a voice, positive change for this growing demographic would undoubtedly be welcomed much quicker.

To speak to CC’s experts in property and construction, email  

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