Independent for longer – new report exposes desire for independence and community in later life
New research reveals more than half (54%) of 18–34-year-olds expect that their parents will want family members to care for them in later life – yet only 16% of people aged over 55 want this
Due to the pandemic, 36% of 18–34-year-olds are now more likely to consider moving closer to their families
Anchor’s Fragmented UK report calls for a number of steps to unlock investment in later life housing options and a National Conversation about people’s desires and expectations for later life
Watch the full webinar below where our expert panel discuss Fragmented UK: Reconnecting people by creating communities where people love living in later life:
A report by Anchor, Fragmented UK: Reconnecting people by creating communities where people love living in later life, looks at the changing nature of communities and independence particularly in a post pandemic environment.Download the full report
Expectation versus reality
Anchor’s research reveals a disparity between what younger people believe their parents want in terms of care in later life and what older people themselves say. Today, over half (54%) of 18-34 year olds and 42% of those aged 35 to 54 believe their parents will want family members to care for them in later life.
Yet only 16% of over 55s say they will want this to happen. Anchor’s research found that older age groups are more likely to cite “not being a burden” on family as a key part of their sense of independence.
Supply and demand chasm
While specialist retirement housing and care can play a significant role in supporting people to live independently for longer, there is low awareness of housing options for people in later life among the public. Anchor’s research shows 80% of people do not fully understand the options available to them. It is vital to increase awareness of these options to ensure people can make an informed decision. Anchor’s research identifies that, when asked what independence means to older people, retirement communities could be an effective way to meet their needs. Over 55s highlight four key areas which they associated with independence: making their own decisions = 82%, having control over their own financial decisions = 74%, living in their own home = 75%, and being able to pursue their current way of living = 69%.
With 35% of over-55s saying they would be very likely or quite likely to consider specialist retirement housing, and as the awareness of later life housing options increases, demand will continue to rise. A Housing LIN report for the Local Government Association estimates a shortfall of 400,000 older people’s housing units by 2035¹. Therefore, it is vital that a long-term strategy is put in place to address the gap.
Quality time together
Time spent with family, friends and local communities is invaluable in helping ensure a good quality of life. Anchor’s research reveals that 36% of young people (18–34) are now thinking about moving closer to their extended family – citing the pandemic as the primary reason.
The survey uncovered that as a nation, we value regular contact, which goes beyond special occasions, and simply spending time together at home.
Greater provision of specialist housing for people in later life across the country is key to enabling families to spend more quality time together in a way that suits their individual and group needs.
Fear of loneliness conquered by community
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the fear of loneliness in later life. Even before the pandemic, levels of loneliness among older people have been cause for concern. Loneliness can have far-reaching consequences for mental and physical health – which in turn can impact already-stretched public services (lonely people are 1.3 times more likely to experience an emergency hospital admission²).
Anchor’s research reveals that nearly half of the public (45%) believe they will get lonelier as they get older. Even younger people are concerned about loneliness in later life, with 50% of under-55 year-olds expressing this fear.
Being involved with your local community can help alleviate loneliness. Anchor’s research shows that over half of the nation (55%) worry that people’s sense of community is disappearing.
Being part of a community is one of the key reasons many older people seek to move into specialist housing in later life. Brian Branson (78), who lives in Anchor’s Hampshire Lakes in Yateley, said:
It’s a close-knit community. There is always someone to talk to and something to do, so I spend a lot of time with my neighbours. From Friday happy hours to themed dinner and drinks, I also enjoy attending regular events alongside my neighbours. I love the themed nights in particular: we once had a 60s-themed evening where I dressed up as Elvis Presley!
My sister-in-law Meryl was struggling with the upkeep of a four-bedroom house. She saw how much I was enjoying living at Hampshire Lakes and bought a place a couple of years after I did.
The way forward
In the People at the Heart of Care: Social Care Reform White Paper, published in December 2021, the Government put a heavy focus on improving housing options for older people. This commitment has been echoed by the Levelling Up White Paper, published in February 2022, where the Government has committed to creating a task force focussing on housing for older people. These pledges, and the evidence in the Fragmented UK report, represents a clear opportunity to ensure housing forms a major part of the solution to address issues faced by our ageing population and the wider society.
Commenting on the report, Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive at Anchor, said:
Our Fragmented UK research shows how important independence and community are to older people. Specialist housing options can give people access to both, and we’ve seen demand rising significantly in the past few years.
The Government’s commitment to a task force focussed on housing for older people is an important step in the right direction. We are now calling for the task force to be launched at the earliest opportunity to fully engage with all stakeholders including providers; unlocking investment and driving development to create more homes where people love living in later life.
As our population ages, supply will continue to struggle to meet demand. It’s imperative that the barriers to development are addressed, so that everyone has the opportunity to live where they want and how they want.
In response to the findings, Anchor is also calling for a National Conversation for all generations to talk about ageing and later life options.
Jane Ashcroft continued:
We need to encourage families to discuss options available and choices to be made when it comes to housing, helping people make decisions early and plan better.
Only through an open and honest conversation can we ensure that the needs and expectations of older people are properly understood, and that young people don’t fear getting older but are supported to better understand what can be possible in later life.
¹ Local Government Association, Housing Our Ageing Population: Learning from councils meeting the housing needs of our ageing population (2017): Housing our Ageing Population: Learning from councils meeting the housing needs of our ageing population - Resource Library - Resources - Housing LIN
² Social Finance, Investing to Tackle Loneliness (2015): https://www.socialfinance.org.uk/resources/publications/investing-tackle-loneliness-discussion-paper