Can retirement living live up to baby boomers expectations?

March 21, 2019

Can retirement living live up to baby boomers expectations?

Retirement dreams may once have centred on quietly slipping off to the allotment or golf course, but today’s affluent baby boomer generation wants much more.

Those born between 1946 and 1964, who are used to doing things their own way throughout their lives, are staying healthier and more active for longer – in many cases well into their 70s and 80s. In doing so, they’re reinventing the concept of their golden years.

Traditional retirement housing models in the UK are evolving to keep pace. While there’s still a place for care homes when health problems mount, a growing number of housing with care facilities are providing an intermediate stage. And they’re shaking up the image of senior living. 

“The baby boomer generation is a bit more choosey and crucially, thanks to rising house prices and their good pension pots, many of this generation have the spending power to demand more,” says Anthony Oldfield, JLL UK’s director of living advisory healthcare.

“They want higher specification services, hotel-style concierge services and amenities with the back-up of care services, as and when they need it. When you walk into one of these schemes you don’t think care home, you think high end residential.”

Bringing retirees together

Today’s housing with care facilities are all about creating a community where residents can pursue independent lifestyles and enjoy a range of amenities, with the back-up of care provision.

“These communities are not just about care, they are about wellbeing and improving the quality of life,” says Oldfield. “Loneliness is a growing issue for the over-65s, with single person households accounting for 38 percent of this age group, compared to 19 percent for younger households.”

At the top end of the market, schemes like Binswood Hall in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, offers fitness and spa facilities, a hair salon, an on-site restaurant and bar and activities including sight-seeing trips.

The design features of the apartments are also more akin to modern homes instead of traditional care facilities. The high-spec apartments at Chapelwood Wilmslow, in Cheshire, for example, include designer kitchens and open-plan living.

For many people considering housing with care developments, maintaining close links to the area they’ve lived in and their previous lifestyle is important. Half of buyers come from within a 10-mile radius of developments, with many opting for an urban setting with easy access to leisure amenities, according to JLL.

Battersea Place, in London, has the capital’s shops and attractions on its doorstep while others like, Park Place, in Boston, Lincolnshire, sit on the outskirts of urban centres with good transport links.

While many of the current housing with care villages on the market are aimed at affluent retirees with buying and rental prices akin to luxury urban apartments, there are also a growing number of mid-market developments like Stoke Gifford Village, near Bristol.

A growing need for senior living options

With the over 65s set to account for a quarter of the UK’s population within the next 25 years, Oldfield says more serious thought must be given to what is required to accommodate the changing needs of this age group.

“Buying is much more popular than renting at present, but I think we will see more demand for rental in future as younger age groups used to renting get older,” Oldfield says.

As the sector matures, current regional patterns could shift further. At present, the South East is the prime retirement living market due to high average house prices and household wealth, but the West Midlands has seen the highest increase in providers over the last decade.

And more needs to be done to raise consumer interest. “For the sector to grow in a similar way to student housing and build to rent, it is developers, investors and operators that need to deliver the attractive homes, communities and developments which will entice consumers to move and create the market,” Oldfield says.

It’s not the only challenge: Competition for development land remains robust in the UK, and Oldfield says this intensifies the need to build the types of developments that retirees want to live in. “Creating the type of sought-after attractive homes and communities that allow older people to live the lifestyle they desire will be key when it comes to attracting Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers that will follow them,” he concludes.