Much-needed action to tackle the UK’s shortage of appropriate housing for older people has had a huge £500m boost, thanks to a new deal between Legal & General and NatWest Group Pension Fund. The 15-year joint venture (JV) will help our specialist later living operator and developer, Inspired Villages, by accelerating its build programme to deliver around 5,100 homes aimed at the over-65s.
With people living longer, the number of over-65s in the UK is expected to increase by 41% to nearly 18 million by 2040, yet there are currently only 78,000 later living homes and only around 7,000 new ones are delivered each year. Ageing population statistics show that while around 5% to 6% of over-65s in countries like US, New Zealand and Australia live in later-living villages, just 0.6% do so in the UK.
The new JV will support our mission to help the UK build back better after the pandemic. Inspired Villages offers a wide range of housing options, both rentals and for sale – with sale prices starting from £230,000 – and ranging from 1-bedroom apartments to 3-bedroom houses, all set within vibrant communities carefully designed for the needs of older people and focused on promoting holistic wellbeing.
Offering an aspirational lifestyle choice, Inspired Villages aims to take on the challenges of an ageing population by improving the holistic wellbeing of the over-65s and supporting them in living healthier, independent lives for longer so that they can remain in their own homes as they age, while being able to access necessary care and wellbeing services.
With a strong social purpose, Inspired Villages is driven by the desire to keep its residents healthier and happier for longer and take the pressure off our already overstretched NHS and care services.
Just one aspect of supporting residents to live healthier, happier lives is tackling loneliness in older age. Described by medical professionals as a “silent epidemic”, loneliness has profound medical implications. Even before the pandemic, more than two million people in England over the age of 75 lived alone and more than a million older people said they go for a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
Later living communities, in contrast, have provided safer environments, offering residents the ability to self-isolate in their own homes whilst maintaining access to a network of support and social interaction which is not possible for those who live alone in traditional housing. Facilities such as gyms and swimming pools have largely remained open to residents, through safety measures including single household bookings, with exercise classes also being led online.
Village teams have also organised socially distanced coffee and wine gatherings on resident balconies and patios, arranged walks and socially distanced exercise classes in the spacious green grounds of the villages, delivered cooked meals from the restaurants, and made regular buddy calls and deliveries to keep up morale.
The benefits of building appropriate housing for older people extend to the wider community too, providing jobs ranging from those in construction to roles such as the managers, carers, physiotherapists and maintenance personnel that will be needed at later living villages.
Another wider benefit relates to the fact that homeowners over the age of 50 currently hold 75% of the UK’s housing wealth, according to research from Savills. Meanwhile, young people today are half as likely to get on the housing ladder by the age of 22 as they were 20 years ago. Later life villages provide suitable accommodation so that older people can downsize, freeing up their larger properties for families, balancing intergenerational inequality and boosting the UK economy by getting the housing chain moving again.
And because every generation has a part to play in the fight against climate change, Inspired Villages has started construction on its first two net-zero carbon-regulated energy villages. Its first, Millfield Green in Bedfordshire, should welcome its first in early 2023. It will provide 200 homes with ground-source heat pumps that dramatically cut the need fossil fuels.
Inspired Villages currently has six operational villages with 919 residents and four sites under construction, with a commitment to back a portfolio of 34 sites, housing 8,000 residents.
Legal & General is supporting other initiatives to improve the quality of life for older people in the UK. In 2018 we invested in Care Sourcer to help meet the challenge of many people missing out on the care they need each year, while at the same time care homes face closure as a result of low occupancy rates. Care Sourcer is an online care marketplace that connects the people who provide care with the people who need it.
And living longer doesn’t necessarily mean living better, which raises questions about our systems of later-life care. The new Advanced Care Research Centre at The University of Edinburgh, which has received funding of £20m from Legal & General, is redefining how we support our ageing population.