A recent article published by The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), based upon findings from a survey of UK Retirement Community operators, reports a “very significant” rise in the demand for retirement communities.
Given the global pandemic that has gripped daily life since March, it is understandable that the benefits of retirement communities have been amplified. With many of our elderly population feeling vulnerable and lonely they are seeking an environment that provides supported living and greater social interaction.
According to the data presented by ARCO the major driving forces behind increased demand were:
- The need for greater company and social interaction.
- A realisation that their previous home was no longer suitable.
- The desire to access a support network ahead of another period of lockdown.
Fairhaven has long seen the benefits that our supported housing delivers to residents by enabling independence, creating safe environments, fostering a sense of community and social interaction, delivering support and enabling care when required. The sector also presents wider benefits in terms of employment, the general housing market, social care budgets and emergency hospital admissions.
However, despite our approbation for the virtues of the sector, the chasmic void between demographics and suitable provision is stark. Within England and Wales there is approximately 11 million people aged over 65, in contrast the UK has circa 475,000 dedicated units of housing to serve that age group.
We therefore welcome the publication of research from the British Property Federation “Housing and Care for Older People: Defining the Sector” which sets out ways in which the UK can deliver more specialist housing for older people to accommodate rising demand.
The report, produced in partnership with Cushman and Wakefield, and contributed to by a panel of leading experts which included ARCO, has identified many of the key issues facing the sector and outlined recommendations to meet the challenges we face.
These recommendations include:
- Government establishing a housing for older people taskforce.
- Government should publish a national strategy for housing for older people.
- Prioritising projects that are committed to achieving zero carbon
Housing supply has long been a political topic which is rarely viewed in isolation, but given the combination of demographic factors and a global health emergency, the realisation of the challenges that face this sector have never been so stark.
Whilst it is reasonable to attribute the increased demand for retirement communities to the stimulus created within the wider housing market by the stamp duty holiday, or indeed assert that it is a panicked response to a global pandemic. The worrying truth is that we do not have either the existing or the potential housing supply to meet demand. More worrying is that we do not have a cohesive approach or strategy from government to address this challenge.
To that end we welcome the renewed vigour that has been shown by the agencies who contributed and produced this report, we only hope it stimulates the necessary response!