Article - Retirement Living

Last week, I had the delightful task of opening a very nice new building in Bridport, which contains flats designed to suit elderly people who want to maintain complete independence and to continue owning their own home, but also want the peace of mind that comes from having a manager on site and high-tech access to support when it is needed. 

As more and more of us live to a great age, arrangements of this sort - somewhere between conventional home ownership and conventional retirement homes - will, I guess be increasingly in demand. 

As well as providing elderly folk with the right mixture of support and independence, the construction of buildings arranged in this way provides an opportunity, in many cases, for "down-sizing" that also liberates family homes needed by younger families and thereby benefits us all by reducing pressure on the housing market and on land supply. 

What struck me as I talked briefly to some of the owners of these flats was their evident satisfaction about the choice they had made. Located conveniently close to the centre of Bridport, they were clearly able to walk to the shops and other attractions of a lively rural town. This, as well as enhancing their lives and liberating them from their cars, is also reducing the overcrowding of our streets and car parks in the town centre and helping to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.

All in all, it seems clear to me that this is a trend which we should be encouraging. 

It is remarkable, when one comes to think about it, that this hasn't become more normal and more widespread. 

Perhaps part of the reason is just the false but common assumption that the choice homeowners face when they move beyond retirement into genuine old age is between struggling on in homes they have previously occupied without any serious means of support or abandoning independent living in favour of a traditional retirement home. 

This false dichotomy has never prevailed in social rented housing, which has always provided a considerable array of supported accommodation - of which we certainly need more, but which has always been recognised at least as an option. And of course the public authorities at various levels have consistently intervened over many years to make this option available. 

Perhaps we have now reached the point at which the public interest in promoting more retirement living of the kind I visited in Bridport is now so great, given the pressures on the housing market and on our environment, as to warrant some well judged public intervention to foster the supply of this option for homeowners?