Shortage of age-friendly housing options for downsizing over 55s, says report

21st November 2016

New generation of flexible bungalows, apartments and houses with 'granny annexes' needed to meet demand from downsizers Chronic shortage of age-friendly housing options with number of over 85s set to double in next 20 years Ageing population has greater aspirations for their retirement years than previous generations People on the cusp of retirement are keen to downsize but a significant shortage of good quality adaptable and accessible housing is preventing them, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

There are currently almost 20 million households in the UK in the over 55 age bracket, and the number of people aged 85 and above is set to double over the next 20 years. However, much of the UK's new housing stock is being built with younger families and first time buyers in mind. This is resulting in a substantial shortage of accessible and suitable housing options for older buyers, particularly outside of higher value housing areas such as London and the South of England. Researchers working on the Designing for Wellbeing in Environments for Later Life (DWELL) project developed a new approach to age-friendly housing by working with older residents and potential downsizers as co-designers. They found that while there is no one 'ideal' downsizer home, there were a number of common features including manageable outdoor space, demand for fewer rooms but more space and flexibility, and a preference to live in mixed-age developments and communities. Sarah Wigglesworth, Professor of Architecture and DWELL project lead, said: -Like everyone else, downsizers are a huge, diverse group with differing pockets, aspirations and lifestyles. -Older residents in Sheffield, as elsewhere, lack choices in housing. We need joined-up thinking - which is design-thinking - to connect sites, planning, finance and ideas for living that will address this shortfall. People invariably want to remain independent and in control for as long as possible and good design in concert with good delivery processes can help to deliver this. Our work shows the way to do this. Researchers also identified a number of failures in the housing marketing including entrenched attitudes around older people and what they are looking for, a lack of innovation in housing models and a failure of government to address the requirements of the UK's 'third-agers'. Malcolm Tait, Professor of Planning at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and co-investigator on the project, said: -As baby boomers enter retirement we're seeing a total shift in aspirations among older house buyers and a desire for a much more active lifestyle compared to the previous generation. -Many see existing specialist housing for older people as potentially compromising for their quality of life or limiting space. Professor Tait added: -Rather than seeing an ageing population as a problem, it should be used as an opportunity to deliver the next generation of high-quality, sustainable homes to regenerate neighbourhoods and cities for the benefit of all. -This would also play a vital role in improving the quality of life and future wellbeing of the UK's ever-ageing population. A full version of the 'Designing with Downsizers' report can be downloaded from the DWELL website at: http://dwell.group.shef.ac.uk/downsizing/

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