Retirement communities

Growing development and investment opportunity for retirement properties is 'clear', says Octopus Real Estate

It has been estimated that there could be as many as 2.5 million UK retirees who may desire retirement properties which could bring significant opportunity for developers, operators and investors, according to the latest research from Octopus Real Estate.


The ‘Unlocking the retirement opportunity in a post-pandemic world’ report found that 27.3% of over-65s and 43% of those aged 55-59 would definitely or maybe consider moving to a retirement community once they understood what it offers.

Only 12% of respondents who said they would not consider a retirement community was due to not understanding or trusting the fees.

“We know that, for the majority, retirement communities will not be the answer — but to meet the growing demand of those that are interested, more communities need to be built”, said Kevin Beirne, director and head of retirement at Octopus Real Estate.

“By doing so, it will also free up more family homes and help unlock the UK’s property crisis. 

“There is an opportunity to create desirable homes that retired people want and, currently, there is insufficient supply to meet this untapped demand.

“The opportunity in the UK for retirement community operators, developers and institutional investors to come together to create more choice for retirees is clear and, in doing so, we can play our part in helping to build back better.”

According to the report, the global pandemic has been a catalyst for people re-evaluating their living arrangements and that national lockdowns have highlighted the benefits that retirement communities offer.

Other key findings include:

  • some 37% of over-55s shielded in lockdown 
  • some 47% of over-55s felt lonely or isolated during the national lockdowns
  • some 28% found home maintenance stressful, while 55% felt they could keep up with it.

The research highlighted the need for education on what retirement communities offer, as many respondents did not know this.

Some 79% had not considered living in a retirement community and 33% were not able to identify what a retirement community was.

However, once they were made aware of what living in a retirement community was like, their perceptions changed, and they said they would consider moving to one. 

“The retirement community industry needs to work together to raise awareness and, in doing so, address the current misconceptions about the sector,” added Kevin.

“It’s telling that 21% of respondents believed that a retirement community was similar to a care home; the knowledge gap is huge and needs to be bridged.”

In terms of what retirees are looking for in a retirement home, those surveyed wanted it to support their lifestyle with facilities such as restaurants (53%), coffee shops (50%), social areas (45%) as well as activities and clubs, such as exercise classes (43%) and swimming (42%).

The most important aspects of retirement for homeowners over 55 are the freedom to travel (64%), relaxation (61%) and spending time with family (60%).

For retirees, the top priorities include feeling safe and secure (49%), an easy to maintain home (42%), close proximity to a town centre or amenities (40%), space for family and friends to spend the night (35%) and being technology enabled (25%).

The report estimates that there will be 7.5 million UK residents aged 65 and over by 2069 and, at present, fewer than 1% of UK retirees live in retirement communities.

Nick Sanderson, chair at ARCO and CEO at Audley Group, commented: “This important piece of research is perfectly timed as the nation eases out of lockdown and we readjust our lives following a year of living through the pandemic. 

“The real benefits that living in a retirement community brings is the freedom and protection that comes with having your own front door, but with the added benefit of being supported by the team of dedicated staff and the community itself.”

Phil Schmid, senior director at CBRE, added: “What is clear from the research is that the end demand from retirees seeking an alternative to enjoy their retirement and later life is there if we develop attractive communities. 

“Crucially, living in a retirement community can delay the need for more formal care and enable a retiree to realise their dream of enjoying retirement as the best years of their life.”

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