Living longer requires a fresh look at later living
By Will Neale
The population of England and Wales has continued to age, with the latest 2021 Census data confirming that 11 million people (or 18.6% of the total population) are now aged 65 or above – crucially for the first time surpassing the number of children aged under 15.
Projections show that by 2030, the number of over 65s will top 15 million - or just over 20% of the total population.
Advances in technology, medicine and living standards now mean that we’re all living longer than ever. According to the ONS, baby boys born in the UK in 2020 can expect to live on average to age 87.3 years and girls, 90.2 years. And while this is an achievement for our society to celebrate, it also presents new challenges and puts pressure on services and systems never designed to cope with modern life expectancies. As a pragmatic, forward-thinking society, we must look for ways to ensure that our ageing population becomes a product of our success and innovation, and the property sector has a huge role to play in meeting this challenge.
At present, housing wealth is largely concentrated in the hands of over-65s, largely at the expense of their junior counterparts. The combined value of homes owned by those over 65 is nearly £2 trillion, with many, especially in London and the South-East, becoming equity millionaires in the process.
Unlike the US, the UK lacks a culture of downsizing into later living homes. Just under 1% of UK over 65s live in a later living facility, compared to 6.5% in the US. This is because we have failed to make a compelling, positive case for the sector. Public perception of later living remains overwhelmingly negative with just 21% of the general public believing that care homes are a positive place to live (Ipsos Mori, 2021).
In reality, later living is one of the most innovative sectors within the property industry, serving a community ranging from those with no additional needs right through to those who require intensive, around-the-clock care. Such innovation not only maintains the quality of life for its residents but can also improve it, retaining independence and quality of life into our senior years. Many later living developments now contain restaurants, coffee lounges, and hair salons, services which would often be inaccessible for those without the additional care and support that later living provides.
As demand for later living increases, efforts must be made to change perceptions to reflect this dynamic, innovative sector and its incredible potential.
This article was originally published in Advocacy Local’s Politics and Planning Newsletter. To receive our fortnightly newsletter straight to your inbox, subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/htOBCv