Todays 70 year olds more cheerful than ever

Some good news for those hitting 70 this year, it seems that many 70 year olds are happier now than they were at 60, according to researchers at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London
The National Survey for Health and Development which has followed the lives of 3,000 people born in 1946, found that they felt more cheerful, confident, optimistic, useful and relaxed as they entered their seventies.
This was in spite of the fact most reported suffering from at least one condition such as a bad back, arthritis and high blood pressure.
The findings mirror recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics covering data from 2012-2015 which found that those aged 65 to 79 years old are the happiest in Britain – with life satisfaction, happiness and feeling that life is worthwhile all peaking in this age group.
The researchers suggested that balancing work and family commitments may contribute to lower levels of happiness for those in their middle years, but by the time people retire they have more time to spend on activities that are good for their sense of well-being.
People do on the whole seem to be more optimistic about getting older these days and increasingly want to spend their retirement doing things they have always wanted to do such as traveling to far flung destinations.
Research we conducted earlier this year with people over 50 suggested that over 70% want to travel more when they retire, with more than a third (37% wanting to travel at least 2-3 times a year.
Making the most of retirement is something we should all be aiming to do so it’s important to plan now to make sure you have the finances in place to enjoy a long and happy retirement. For many this could mean downsizing and freeing up capital in their home.
Not only does this give people a little bit more money to spend it also frees them up to enjoy life free from all the worries that go with owning a home, such as unexpected repair bills and upkeep costs.
Take a tour of our website to see some of the current retirement properties that are available to rent.

Esther Rantzen suggests older people should downsize

TV presenter Esther Rantzen was featured in this week’s Sunday Times and said that older people should downsize and move to a smaller property to free up family homes for families and help ease the housing crisis. We couldn’t agree more.

Six years ago, Esther downsized to a two-bedroom flat from a large house in Hampstead so she is talking from personal experience.

Now 75, Ms Rantzen is increasingly becoming a consumer champion for issues affecting the elderly.

In 2012 she wrote an article on loneliness, which prompted a huge response from the public, and founded The Silver Line, a helpline to support elderly people. She also campaigns about the shortage of retirement accommodation.

She told the Sunday Times that millions of older people would be very happy to downsize if there was enough appropriate housing for them.

“We are not building comfortable, appropriate housing for older people, which is stupid because it would free up houses for families and you wouldn’t have little old ladies like me rattling around in a five-storey house.”

Esther Rantzen also mentions she disagrees with Baroness Bakewell who has suggested encouraging older people to downsize was “mean-spirited”. Far from being mean-spirited though it seems there are plenty of people that feel just like Esther Rantzen.

A report out this year from retirement housebuilder, McCarthy & Stone, Generation Stuck: Exploring the Reality of Downsizing in Later Life, suggested that a lack of downsizing options for the over 55s is creating what they term ‘Generation Stuck’. The report highlighted that despite one in three (33%) of the UK’s homeowners aged 55 and over considering or expecting to consider downsizing, a lack of suitable housing options is preventing them from moving.

The problem isn’t going away and the more people can talk about the issues facing older people and where they will live when they get older the better, then hopefully house builders and policy makers will start to take note.

Currently one in six people (10 million) are over 65 years old; by 2050 its predicted one in four (19 million) will be over 65. A quarter of the population cannot be ignored and the option to downsize to an aspirational property in a decent area should be available to all those that want to.

Over-50s Yearning for Adventure in Retirement

We recently conducted research with over 1000 retired people for a broadcast campaign in partnership with 4mediarelations, one of the UK’s leading broadcast consultancies.

We wanted to find out what the over 50s want to do in retirement and we found some interesting results!

Over 70% wish to travel more when they retire, with more than a third (37%) wishing to travel at least 2-3 times a year.

Rather than blowing all their money on one big trip, the over-50s plan to use their money wisely to make the most of retirement, with almost two thirds (63%) saying they do not intend to take their pension out as one lump sum.

However, fewer than half of people (43%) think their money will actually last them until their 80s or 90s, so it may be difficult for some to sustain this more adventurous side of retirement unless they plan ahead and ensure they have the finances in place to ensure a good standard of living.

The research also highlighted that 35% of people want to move in retirement and downsizing is one way they could release their equity and free up money for funding retirement.

I was delighted to speak to several radio stations across the UK, including BBC Radio Somerset, BBC Radio Suffolk, Sunrise Radio in Yorkshire, North Manchester FM and Radio Saltire in East Lothian about this research and it was certainly a new and enjoyable experience for me to spend a morning chatting with DJ’s up and down the country.

It was a great opportunity for us to spread the message about the positives of renting in retirement on assured tenancies to a large audience of listeners and the presenters were really interested to hear how the over 50s are becoming more adventurous and increasingly seeing retirement as a new and exciting stage in their lives.

I hope that people listening learnt more about the benefits renting can offer when they get older, and perhaps it will encourage them to start planning earlier for their own retirement, financially and inspirationally, so they can fulfil their retirement dreams too, whatever they may be.

Why Build to Rent is essential for older people too

The Build to Rent sector is of growing interest to investors. Last December Knight Frank said that £15bn had been invested in the sector, and its latest statistics suggest that institutional investors will commit to a total of £50bn by 2020.

Two large investors have also just signalled their entry into this sector. Grainger plc has committed £850m between now and 2020, whilst Legal & General Capital also announced that it is to become more involved in the ‘Build to Rent’ market in the UK. The company plans to spend £600 million providing 3,000 units to let. It also highlighted that in its view, the rental market in the UK is ‘dysfunctional’ and that for this to change, renting must become more affordable.

Much of the investment is aimed at young professionals working in urban areas. The first homes to be funded by Legal & General Capital will be in Bristol, Salford and Walthamstow. We are keen to see more investors targeting the retirement sector too.

Many older people want to downsize when they are older. A recent report from retirement housebuilders McCarthy and Stone called ‘Generation Stuck: Exploring the Reality of downsizing in later life’ highlighted that a third of the UK’s homeowners aged 55 and over are considering or expecting to consider downsizing. However most aren’t able to because of the shortage of specialist retirement homes.

More needs to be done to encourage build for rent that is affordable and appropriate for the needs of the older generation, especially given that by 2030 it is predicted that a quarter of the UK population will be aged 65 and over.

For an investor, the fact that a quarter of the population will be over 65 in less than 15 years’ time would suggest this is a market worth investing in and we hope that more investors and housebuilders will recognise this soon.

8,000 new specialist homes for older people is just the tip of the iceberg

We welcome the plans in yesterday’s autumn statement from the Chancellor, George Osborne to stimulate the housing market, in particular the 400,000 affordable homes to be built by 2020-21, including 8,000 specialist homes for older people and those with disabilities, as well as the 2% increase in council tax to fund elderly care.

These homes for older people are part of the Government’s Five Point Plan for housing to support housing supply and low cost home ownership. Measures include extending Right to buy scheme and the Equity Loan scheme, offering buyers with a 5% deposit a 5-year interest free loan to buy a new home; supporting SME builders and further reform of the planning system – amounting to over £20 billion investment in housing over the Spending Review period.

It was also announced that higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (3% above current rates) will be charged on additional residential properties, such as buy to let and second homes from 1 April 2016, which will help fund the housing plans.

Whilst these are all positive measures, its unlikely 8,000 specialist homes will meet the needs of our ageing population. Currently one in six people (10 million) are over 65 years old; by 2050 it is predicted one in four (19 million) will be over 65. A report from Property Company Savills^ in October suggested that the UK will run out of purpose built retirement accommodation for older people if the construction industry cannot provide another 90,000 retirement properties in the next five years.

The Housing LIN/Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC)* also forecast a deficit of 240,000 bespoke retirement properties by 2030. At the moment less than 3% of housing in the pipeline is aimed at older people and yet, the over 65s will make up around a quarter of the population in 20 years times.

Many of the measures announced today including paying more money to developers to build “starter homes” – 200,000 of which will be sold at 20% below market value to first time buyers, and 10,000 new homes that tenants can live in at reduced rents whilst saving for a deposit – are aimed at younger people, with much less emphasis placed on the housing needs of older people.

As older people are going to make up a larger share of the population over the next 20 years, a higher proportion of the £20bn needs to be aimed at this end of the market. It will take time to build suitable, desirable homes that older people will want to downsize to, and failing to tackle this now is storing up even greater housing issues for the future.


Lifetime tenancies may no longer be available to new social housing tenants

It was revealed at the end of October that the Government plans to scrap lifetime tenancies for new social housing tenants in favour of fixed-term contacts.

Whilst councils and housing associations have been able to offer five-year fixed-term tenancies since 2012 – the numbers doing so are low. According to official figures* , just 13% of new general needs social housing lets were made on a fixed-term basis in 2014/15, compared with 9% in 2013/14.

This move is likely to mean that those no longer eligible for social housing may look to move to properties which are offered at market rent in the private sector. This migration from social to private housing will allow those who are desperately in need of accommodation to gain a home.

It’s widely recognised that there is not enough social housing to meet demand. The Chartered Institute of Housing** estimates that around 120,000 social homes have been lost in the past three years.

Therefore what is available should go to the most vulnerable. Lifetime tenancies may stop this happening as people who may not be the neediest in society are able to live there as long as they want, therefore taking up social homes that could be used for someone else.

In the private sector ‘assured tenancies’ are rare; however, we offer assured tenancy rents on the majority of properties to those aged 55 and over and have done so for over 20 years, recognising that the older sector of the market is looking for the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they can rent their property for as long as they choose.

Under an assured tenancy it is the tenant that chooses to give notice after the requisite period and move on, however the landlord cannot give notice, unless the terms of the tenancy have been breached.

With Government wanting to scrap lifetime tenancies for new social housing tenants we believe there is a viable option for non-vulnerable older people to move out of social housing into private rented retirement accommodation.

Given we are an ageing population, it’s likely more older people will have to rent in the private sector in the future so it’s reassuring they can do so with Girlings on an assured tenancy.


‘Last-Time Buyers’ would downsize but they have nowhere to go

Lynda Blackwell, Head of Mortgages at the Financial Conduct Authority, addressed a conference yesterday and said that older people who are mortgage free and living in homes ‘too large for them’ should be encouraged by Ministers to downsize.

We agree that if older people could downsize it would free up family homes for people further down the ladder and help to solve the housing crisis. However, this can only happen if there are incentives available to enable older people to move; equally, there needs to be appropriate housing available for older people to move to.

Currently, there is insufficient, appropriate alternative accommodation suitable for retired people in the UK as a result of planning hold ups. Two thirds of people in the UK would like to downsize, yet only 1% of over 65s in Britain have been able to move into retirement accommodation.

We agree wholeheartedly with Ms Blackwell that it is time for a debate – in fact, it is long overdue. There has been a lack of continuity in housing in the past years, with a high turnover of Housing Ministers. Isn’t now the time for the government to take housing seriously, put this issue on the agenda and have a proper debate?

Why older couples should consider downsizing and then rent instead of buy

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph looked at why older people don’t wish to downsize in their later years. The article highlighted some of the main obstacles, such as a lack of appealing smaller homes, the expense of moving, including stamp duty, and no decent bank savings rates to provide an adequate return from any extra money left over from a house sale.

Retired people in the UK currently own a third of the nation’s housing stock. Enabling them to downsize would free up much needed family houses and give them the opportunity to release their capital, invest in their future and enjoy their retirement, living in housing that meets all their future needs.

We believe there is a simple answer to the current housing shortage and that is for older people to consider downsizing to a purpose built retirement property and renting on an assured tenancy. Choosing to rent in ones later years is a sensible solution and one which thousands of Girlings’ tenants can recommend.

Equally, if older people downsize it will free up much needed family housing for people further down the ladder. The latest statistics from the Home Builders Federation state that we are still some way off the 220- 250,000 new houses that are needed to be built per year to satisfy current demand.

The sale of a larger family home enables older people to downsize into property which is more suitable for their needs (so it is crucial that suitable property is available) and also frees up capital which can be invested to provide an income; gifted to relatives or used to enjoy a better quality of life.

The provision of an assured (‘lifetime’) tenancy removes any obstacle to renting by providing the peace of mind that people can live in their new home for as long as they wish. Furthermore, should circumstances alter in the future there is not the frustration of trying to sell a retirement property in an uncertain market and the ensuing worry for family and friends.

Our continuing message to government is that the UK desperately needs more purpose built retirement property so that older people have the option to downsize. Today, less than 3% of housing in the pipeline is aimed at older people and yet, in 20 years’ time, those aged 65 or over will make up 23% of the population.

Many older people are stuck in homes that are too big for them, have little choice of a suitable alternative and perceive the obstacles to enjoying a better quality of life in their later years are insurmountable. There is another option….

Lifetime tenancies shouldn’t be limited

Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes Million Lives and co-author of the Treasury-commissioned House/Elphicke review of council house building, has recommended that lifetime tenancies should be limited to only those with ‘long-term high housing’ needs, such as the ‘highly disabled’ and people in ‘extreme old age’.

Her comments come as the government is preparing for a ‘review’ of lifetime tenancies, and she suggests reforming lifetime tenancies to offer either five or 15 year fixed-term tenancies to most tenants, based on need.

Other recommendations were that three different types of new tenancies should be created; housing help for life, lifetime tenancies for tenants with high housing requirements, such as mentally ill and ‘highly disabled’ people, and for those in ‘extreme old age’; family and carer tenancies, 15-year tenancies for those with a ‘higher level of need’, such as sole parents and carers; and fixed five-year ‘review and renew’ tenancies for all other tenants.

Whilst we understand that lifetime tenancies may be regarded as a necessity for vulnerable people and those in extreme old age in the social housing sector, they shouldn’t be limited to these groups of people.

We have been offering lifetime tenancies to older people for many years as they give assurance and peace of mind to people who choose to rent private retirement property rather than buy and who want security of tenure in later life. In most cases, this security of tenure is a prerequisite, particularly to those that have chosen to sell their home to rent, using the release of capital to boost their pensions and fund their rent.

With an estimated quarter of the population reaching 65 by 2030, it is not just those who reach ‘extreme old age’ that will want and need this security.

We firmly believe that tenancy reform is needed also in the private housing sector to make renting a more attractive option for older people and, far from limiting them, lifetime tenancies should become more widely available for those who wish to rent as they get older.

Budget fails to address the need for more retirement properties

Today’s Budget, the first for a majority Conservative Government since 1996, failed to address the shortfall of retirement housing in the UK and included virtually no policy announcements on the UK’s chronic housing shortage at all.

This was disappointing especially given in in recent years much of the Government’s housing policy has focused on getting first time buyers onto the housing ladder.

The government extended the Help to Buy equity scheme to 2020 and is introducing a new Help to Buy ISA this autumn to support people saving for a deposit. Under the Help to Buy ISA, potential homeowners can save £1000 immediately upon opening, plus an additional £200 per month. In turn, the government will add 25% to the contributions.

Both measures will benefit first time buyers. In two years since Help to Buy was introduced, over 47,000 properties have completed and thousands more first time buyers stand to benefit if the scheme is extended.

In the party manifesto there was also talk of a ‘brownfield’ fund to unlock homes on brownfield land. The plan will further protect the greenbelt and provide 200,000 starter homes. Whilst we would welcome plans to help the ‘bottom of the ladder’ we strongly believe that purpose built retirement property for sale and rent must be included as part of any future housing mix.

The latest ONS housing figures revealed that the average age of UK residents has crept up to 40 for the first time and that 18% of the population are over 65. By 2030, a quarter of us will be over 65.

The desire to downsize is strong amongst Britain’s older generation, but many are prevented from doing so because of a lack of suitable retirement properties in desirable locations. The result is that eight million people are living in homes too large for them to manage and too expensive for them to heat. With an ageing population – this issue isn’t going to go away.