The coming of age for retirement villages

The proportion of over 65s is set to rise to 21% of the UK population by 2027, up from 18% in 2017, according to the UK government.

At the same time, ARCO, the housing with care industry body, has set a target of 250,000 over 65s living in housing with care facilities by 2030. Based on this growth target, over 11,000 housing with care units would need to be built each year to meet demand up to 2026 – but over the last decade an average of only 3,220 units a year have been built, according to data from JLL. 

So there’s a gap in supply and demand here in the UK. Retirement villages are in relative infancy compared to the rest of the world – but we are now seeing the coming of age of retirement villages in this country. For the vast majority of the UK population, this lifestyle model is still a little bit of an unknown but as the senior generation continues to grow, and with it, its needs for different living options, the retirement village proposition is emerging as a mainstream choice. 

Across the rest of the world, retirement villages are already very much part of the culture. In New Zealand the population aged over 70 is set to more than double over the next 30 years and with 12% of retirees already living in a retirement village, this is an established lifestyle model which is not only thriving, it is evolving year on year. Ryman Healthcare in Christchurch has launched a new blueprint for villages going forward. It is catering for a new, younger dynamic and talks about the likes of ‘men sheds’, baristas and petting zoos! For them the way forward is to blur the lines between villages and the wider community – both can help one another, with inter-generational links very much the way forward.

And here at Woods Hardwick we are living and breathing it first hand, working alongside award winning national retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone to provide new homes for the ever growing over 55 population across the UK. One of our recent projects formed part of the Garrison Urban Masterplan in Colchester. Here our design proposals sought to emulate components of the historic Garrison buildings as well as the new replacement properties. The design respected the traditional nature of the former barracks and its surroundings through elegant details.

McCarthy & Stone retirement village, Colchester

Particular attention to detail was required to create landscaped areas that enhanced the design of each plot, ensuring residents can make use of and look out on to high quality communal areas. The building configuration was integrated into the existing streetscape to ensure safe access into the site for staff, residents and visitors alike, with the scale and massing carefully considered throughout the design process to ensure the new retirement village blended with its surroundings.

We are certainly seeing a step up again in the retirement village model, with Legal & General’s Inspired Villages, now offering homes to rent – all geared to provide greater choice for residents in order to suit their individual financial circumstances. L&G has pointed to research by the Centre for Ageing Better, revealing that 414,000 older people now rent a property, up 63% from 254,000 in 2007. As James Cobb, Inspired Villages’ sales and marketing director, explained in a recent article: “ For some people we speak to, they don’t have a family to pass their money onto, so rental allows them to unlock their housing wealth to live the most spectacular later life with the full financial security.”

And other operators are seeing a real growth in sales despite unpredictable times – Churchill Retirement’s revenue is up 10% to a record £208.6m (to end of June 2019) compared to £188.3m in 2018. Chairman and CEO, Spencer McCarthy notes that while the planning system continues to present challenges, with protracted affordable housing negotiations and long appeal delays, the government’s new Planning Guidance for Older People, published at the end of June, represents a positive step towards creating a level playing field for specialist retirement developers, enabling the business to overcome the significant red tape and viability constraints our sector has to contend with. 

So now here in the UK with the high specification apartments, hotel-style leisure facilities, restaurants and activities communities, and on-site care offered by the likes of McCarthy & Stone, Churchill Retirement and Inspired Villages, retirement facilities have never been so glamourous. Now getting design makeovers inspired by five-star hotels, the chintz has well and truly been chucked.

And with it so too has the vinyl, linoleum, cork flooring and felt carpet tiles of the traditional retirement homes. Instead, today’s retirees are embracing a whole new way of life.

To find out more about how our team can support your project, contact Calum Wilson, Director and head of Commercial Architecture.


McCarthy & Stone retirement village, Colchester