Perhaps it’s overstating it to suggest that the older generation has never had it so good. But when it comes to the sort of accommodation best suited to their needs, there’s plenty of choice. And a touch of controversy.
A report from think-tank the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) caused a furore by suggesting that elderly people are taking up valuable housing stock by hanging on to large homes needed by young families.
It suggested that tax penalties should be used to persuade the older occupiers to leave.
But developers insist that there is no need for such an approach. Given the right developments in the right places, they say, older homeowners are more than happy to move from larger houses.
According to Beechcroft, which creates upmarket homes with unusually large room sizes in beautifully landscaped settings in the South-East, older people can be reluctant to downsize to a small apartment — or a retirement development of the kind that has communal lounges and laundries.
Beechcroft customers are typically moving from large properties set in extensive grounds and want a new easy-to-maintain home, built to a high standard, space for their furniture and an excellent location.
The sites are usually in market towns or villages within walking distance of shops and services.
Yvonne Hancox, 70, moved to Beechcroft’s Frenchlands Gate in East Horsley, Surrey, from a three-bedroom bungalow with a large garden. ‘One of my main reasons for moving was that the garden was too much for me,’ says Yvonne, ‘and my house needed so much money spending on it.
‘I don’t feel that I have downsized at all. I have two bedrooms instead of three, but I now have two bathrooms, a much bigger kitchen and a nicer dining room.’
Typical prices are £625,000 for a three-bedroom flat or two- bedroom house. Richmond Villages is a specialist with village communities catering to both independent older buyers and those in need of care.
‘A lot of our buyers are moving from the traditional family home,’ says marketing manager David Reaves. ‘It is a big decision, but the typical response we get is: “I wish we had done this five years ago.”’
Richmond Villages provides facilities, such as a spa, hair salon, gym, pool, library, activities room, shop and cafe, as well as care homes on the same site — and a carer agency.
The latest project, at Letcombe Regis in Oxfordshire, has just released the final phase of 34 properties. They range in price from £310,000 to £620,000. It is set in 36 acres, with its own nature reserve.
Retirement Villages is celebrating 30 years of providing accommodation and care for the over-55s. It has 13 locations across the country.
Jon Gooding, chief executive of Retirement Villages, thinks the Intergenerational Foundation report was wrong-headed.
‘Older people should be free to choose how they live and the way to free up the housing stock is by offering them something better,’ he says.
Eileen Osborne, 62, moved from a four-bedroom house in London to Retirement Village’s Roseland Parc on the Rosewall Peninsula in Cornwall.
She says: ‘The house was old, big and took far too much looking after. I was poorly and lonely.’
In her first 18 months she gave up smoking, lost weight, joined a reading group, made dozens of new friends, filled her calendar — and she even sold the mobility scooter she once relied on.