The other end of the housing market
Tue 06 Oct 2015
One may be forgiven for thinking that all current interest in housing need stems from the perceived plight of potential first time buyers or those looking to take up their own first independent accommodation via the private rented sector. That serves to ignore a very important sector of the housing market, and possibly a mirror of the attitude of many in society generally towards older people.
The sector, however, does this at its peril - older people play an important part in the housing market, and can and do influence demands and desires for the sale. The grey pound has as much strength as pounds sterling, and taken in tandem with the cost of care and support is an important fiscal barometer. It also stands to our credit as a society to ensure that all elements of it are properly accommodated (in all senses of the word!).
As opposed to being sedentary in the latter parts of their lives, we are increasingly seeing movement in the older persons housing market. Current handy monikers include:
- The downsizers - those moving from family accommodation in to one or two bedroomed properties;
- The preparers - those looking to move closer to family or other support networks in advance of their absolute need for that support; and
- The silver sloggers - those who do not foresee retirement as an imminent prospect, but anticipate having to continue working well into their later years.
And consideration of housing for older people must take into account the new societal norms – extended families, blended families, as well as changes to how we care for older people. Respecting independence and choice must remain key – as it does in the provision of other types of housing.
Changes in methods of caring and medical advances allowing people to live longer must be balanced – there are increased numbers of those living with dementia for example. Provision for planned or unplanned care must also be a consideration.
Of course, those demographic changes are much versed, but suffice to say that our population is living longer and, in many instances, living better.
A perhaps more immediate impact is to recognise that older people should be, and by many organisations are now being recognised as an economic force in their own right, able to influence and shape spending and investments. That could be in the spending of a care package or in purchasing a new-build retirement property. The opportunities for sector involvement can be as wide as the options that should be available.
Necessarily, the austerity measures faced by the public sector are having an impact upon spending in all budgets, including the adult social care, as well as capital home building projects. Access by older people to pension pots has, however, shown fresh interest in their market, and there has been increased and enhanced commercial investment in the older persons sector, with many private residential developers showing an interest in getting in on the act.
The opportunities for developers and providers, and indeed the demands of older people, are as myriad as there are people needing homes. Short, medium and long term options are all in demand – whether from short stay with additional care and support packages, medium term (perhaps trying other tenures for size) and of course permanent residences for those not yet ready to be seen to be moving on. The requirements for appropriate services and amenities are as high as for other groups, and of course the potential to build properties fit for all stages of life should not be ignored.
Older people also becoming more vocal in exerting and setting out their demands, and the sector should show an increased willingness to listen.