Lack Of Focus On Retirement Property: Damaging For NHS & Wider Housing Market

Ad Banner

1 in 10 (10%) general needs rented properties are ‘under occupied’. Of those properties, over 65s make up 40%, while 27% are occupied by a lead tenant who is 55 to 64 years old and 20% by those aged 45 to 54.

Meanwhile, properties where the lead tenant is 35-44 or under 35 make up just 9% and 4% of under-occupied homes respectively.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

We ask this in order to deliver you a better experience.

White paper: Lack of focus on retirement property is damaging for NHS and wider housing market.

% of under-occupied properties by age with respect to total housing stock of that region


Under 35s




Over 65s

East of England






East Midlands






Greater London






North East (very small data set)






North West






South East






South West






West Midlands






Yorkshire & Humber












New data analysed by law firm Shakespeare Martineau, as part of its ‘Moving On’ white paper demonstrates how retirement living could be the answer to the housing crisis and alleviate pressure on the NHS.

However, lack of government focus and negative perceptions of retirement living are still putting the public off from making the move to better suited homes, or rightsizing.

It is estimated that for each bedroom added to the retirement stock, two to three are released in mainstream housing, so shifting the focus by ‘pulling’ people through the market will increase the number of family and starter homes available.

However, in a research survey of more than 1,000 people aged over 50, 59% had no plan to, or did not know if they would, rightsize one day.

In addition, analysis of more than 200,000 social housing properties showed that people over 65 are most likely to be renting a home that is too large for their needs 1.

Furthermore, only 7,0002 retirement units are being built per year, falling short of the numbers required for an ageing population.

Louise Drew, partner and later living expert at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “Our government’s obsession with first-time buyers is to the detriment of our ageing population and families across the UK.

A greater focus on last-time buyers could not only make better use of existing housing stock, but also help ensure people have a better quality of life in their later years.

“In addition to a shift in government focus, we would call for the Older People’s Housing Taskforce to push for a later living use class – in the same way as affordable housing – to increase intergenerational schemes and consider the full housing lifecycle.”

The current ‘healthy life expectancy’ (the average number of years that an individual is expected to live in a state of self-assessed good or very good health, based on current mortality rates and prevalence of good or very good health) in the UK is 63.4 years for males and 64.1 for females 3.

However, when asked at what age over 50s would rightsize, the average age was 71, which increased alongside the age of the respondent.

Factors putting them off retirement living included; not wanting to live in a community of older people (28%), more than a quarter (26%) didn’t feel it would be an affordable option for them, 1 in 4 believed they would lose their independence if they moved into a retirement living scheme, almost 1 in 5 (19%) felt they’d be more isolated and 1 in 10 believed their health would deteriorate.

“There is a common misconception that retirement living is the same as a care home – but it isn’t,” explains Francis Burrows, director of support and service development, from housing provider Orbit.

“Retirement living or ‘later living’ schemes offer full autonomy and often extend independence due to better suited facilities, such as being stair-free, having health and wellbeing professionals on site, community activities and security.

“Social rent homes provide an affordable option with the security of a lifetime tenancy. The rents and service charges in these homes are kept low to provide much needed homes for older people with modest incomes who need safe, secure homes for their later lives.

The increase in shared ownership properties provides another opportunity for older people wanting to retain ownership but also release equity to top-up pensions and ensure care costs can be covered.”

For most over 50s the key influencing factor that would encourage them to move is changing health needs (36%).

Married couple Brian and Maureen moved into ExtraCare at the age of 70 and said: “People really should be thinking in their mid-sixties about where they’ll be in their 70s, not their 80s.

This is a brilliant community, but if you leave it too late to move you’ll never be able to enjoy it to its fullest. And worse, the choice to move may not be your own.

“We have found from talking to people that those who made the decision themselves to move settled in more quickly, more so than if their children decided for them.”

“But we need backing from the government to increase awareness of the differences between care homes and later living and the health and financial benefits this can provide.”

Substandard housing costs the NHS an estimated £1.4 billion every year4 and if people lived in homes more suited to their needs, it’s estimated that 50,000 fewer homes would need to be built each year 5.

Louise added: “With proven benefits to the housing sector and NHS cost-savings, the government should invest proactively in the later living sector using policy levers, planning reform and funding incentives to help market it properly to create the demand.

Pushing for coordinated efforts at a top level, with master planners and developers creating links between housing associations, investment funds and local authorities, will offer greater choice to the consumer in terms of location, style and facilities.”

Contributors to the report included: Citizen, emh, ExtraCare, Housing LIN, LiveWest, Orbit, Platform, Retirement Villages, Sanctuary, Stonewater, Trent & Dove and whg.

About Shakespeare Martineau

Providing legal advice in life and business, and working with organisations of all sizes, the firm delivers a broad range of specialist legal services and has expertise across multiple areas including but not limited to: energy, education, banking & finance, healthcare, investment funds, manufacturing, agriculture, family business, Islamic finance, later living, social housing, charities and real estate. Shakespeare Martineau also provides services for families and private clients.

The firm’s purpose is clear – to unlock potential – and its ambitions are unlimited, aiming to become one of the most admired top 30 legal & professional services groups by 2025.

Shakespeare Martineau is a B-Corporation and has been listed in Best Companies 2022 as one of the top 100 best large companies to work for in the UK. It also ranked as a top 25 law firm, top 75 East Midlands company, top 75 West Midlands company, and top 50 large London company to work for.

With more than 1,200 people, Shakespeare Martineau has hubs in Sheffield, Lincoln, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, London, Milton Keynes, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bristol, Solihull and Edinburgh.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

We ask this in order to deliver you a better experience.

Tom is a Digital Content Writer passionate about sustainable property & property trends. Regardless of the subject, he will always write blogs of the best calibre. Read more about Tom here.

Ad Banner
About Tom Condon 127 Articles
Tom is a Digital Content Writer passionate about sustainable property & property trends. Regardless of the subject, he will always write blogs of the best calibre. Read more about Tom here.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.