Housing and Homelessness

Meeting the housing demands of an ageing Population

  • Published: Apr 12, 2012
  • Author: Hannah Aldridge
  • Category: Housing and Homelessness

Today, NPI publish a new report with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Shelter, looking at the housing needs of the ageing population. It shows that for many older people, deciding whether to move into specialist housing means choosing between having additional support and security or the tenure and size of housing that they prefer.

As the first wave of baby boomers are retiring, the number of households headed by someone aged over 65 is set to increase by 60% in the next 25 years.1  NPIs paper published today examines whether the housing stock is able to meet the changing demands of England’s ageing households. The report has been used to inform Shelter’s latest policy paper ‘A better fit? Creating housing choices for an ageing population’ also published today. 

Households headed by someone aged 65 or over currently make up around a quarter of all households. By 2033 this will be a third. The age group that will see the biggest increase will be aged 85 and over. But do older households differ from other households in terms of their housing requirements? And is the housing stock able to meet their demands?

NPIs report ‘Market Assessment of Housing Options for Older People’ finds that most people move at least once after the age of 55. When thinking about the needs of moving older households it is commonly assumed that such moves will be into specialist housing (housing that is available exclusively to older people and often provides support).2

In fact, only 6% of older households live in specialist housing – there are 500,000 specialist housing units and over 7 million older households. Around 300,000 older person households move each year, only a minority will require housing with support and opt to move into specialist housing. In terms of equipping the housing stock for older households, most of the work will need to be through investment in non-specialist housing.

However, Shelter’s own survey of older people found that nearly a third (32%) showed an interest in retirement housing. One of the key findings of NPIs report is that the type of specialist housing available does not reflect the type of housing that most older people choose to live in. For example, while there is a slight tendency for older owner-occupiers to downsize when they move, only 8% move to a one bedroom home. Yet 55% of specialist housing schemes offer one bedroom dwellings. Similarly, 67% of schemes offer flats whilst 16% of older households3  live in flats.

There are also stark differences in terms of tenure, 77% of the specialist housing stock is for rent and 23% owner-occupancy. Yet older person households overall show the opposite pattern, 76% of are owner-occupiers and 24% rent their homes.

Whilst few older people decide to move into specialist housing, for the older people that would prefer additional support, a move to specialist housing is likely to be a compromise between the support they require and the type, size and tenure of the dwelling that they would otherwise choose to live in.

Moving to specialist retirement housing can improve quality of life in terms of physical health and social well-being. However, the report highlights that older people being able choose and find housing that meet their aspirations is just as important. The absence of this could deter older people from moving altogether.

The next generation of older people will be the most diverse yet. They will come from a range of backgrounds with different housing aspirations. Shelter’s paper calls for greater choice of housing for older people and urges developers to build a larger range of homes targeted at older people. NPIs research has shown that the traditional view of housing for older people is at odds with what the vast majority of older people would like to live in. If we are to meet the housing needs of older households, the first thing we need to do is broaden our ideas of the type of housing that older people want to move into.

1 Between 2008 and 2033, based on CLG population projections
2 A common example of specialist housing scheme is sheltered housing but the definition includes a wide range of housing types.
3 A household where all members are aged 55 and over


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