Help people spend later years in new urban retirement housing

A report by the Social Market Foundation has said that older people should be helped to spend their later years in new urban retirement housing in town and city centres rather than heading for the coast or the countryside.

The report said that increasing the number of people who retire in urban areas would bring benefits to retirees and the country as a whole. The SMF said that more specialised retirement housing in towns and cities would allow more older people to benefit from urban living, including better public services, as well as better health outcomes and less loneliness.

The cross-party think-tank said that the uneven ageing of different parts of the country is creating unequal – and growing – pressure on services and local economies. By 2043, several coastal and rural local authorities will have a majority of households that are retired. West Somerset is forecast to have 59 per cent of its households aged over 65, more than any other.

Amongst the top 20 local authorities forecast to have the highest proportion of over-65 households by 2043, almost all are either rural or coastal communities.

The SMF said this was likely to increase housing supply pressures in countryside areas. As a result, older people often remain in underoccupied homes due to a lack of suitable or desirable accommodation elsewhere. Meanwhile, property in such areas is increasingly unaffordable for younger families.

Scott Corfe, research director at the Social Market Foundation, said: “People should always be free to decide where to spend their retirement, but Britain’s housing market means too many people don’t have a full range of options. Better provision of retirement housing in towns and cities would give people more choices.  

“The trend for older people to flee from urban areas to the coast or the countryside can have unforeseen consequences. Too many retirees end up in unsuitable, oversized and often unsafe homes, while rising property prices exclude younger families from local housing.  

“Local authority areas where the majority of residents are over 65 could struggle to provide their populations with adequate services, and such communities may lack cohesion and intergenerational mixing. Housing options that allowed more older people to choose to retire in towns and cities would offer benefits to retirees, to urban economies and to wider society.”

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