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20/03/2018

London not ready for an ageing population, suggests report

Words: Laura Edgar
More older people living in London / iStock-805085398

The assumption that retirees will move out of cities to the country is outdated, and London is not ready for its ageing population, the authors of a report published today (20 March) have said.

Housing Older Londoners – by Future of London, Arup, Barton Willmore, British Land and Pollard Thomas Edwards – considers how London should manage the estimated 48 per cent rise in over-60s and 70 per cent rise in over-80s by 2035.

The organisations note that retirees and older people are choosing to remain in cities rather than move to the country and are therefore competing with families, professionals and students for homes and space.

The report notes that the latter groups can increase their incomes, but that many older people cannot. It questions how older people and retirees will afford the housing they want and how the sector can afford to provide the amenities they need.

Housing Older Londoners has called for planning and policy to raise the profile of older people and address gaps. It says that local authorities need to better understand the dynamics of an ageing population. Local plans must consider the needs of older people across all tenures, including a balance of ownership, social rent and extra care housing.

“We should all advocate for the design of spaces and places that accommodate all generations, this diversity is a key ingredient in the development of a rich, vibrant and liveable city” – Sowmya Parthasarathy

Additionally, the report says the housing offer for older people is “complex and poorly understood”. There is a “huge” gap in the middle market – between high-end and sheltered housing – that will need policy and legislative changes to address.

Developers and operators need to engage better with plan-making at the site-specific level. “Planners would welcome input from developers to better understand the issues for providing housing for older people.”

They should also engage with professionals such as GPs early on to ensure that resident requirements are met.

Cross-organisation and cross-sector working is required to ensure that the environment is accessible and inclusive. There should be ambassadors for older people within local authorities and housing associations and can coordinate strategy and delivery across teams could ensure that older people’s needs are met.

Lisa Taylor, chief executive of Future of London, said: “Future of London’s research revealed a strong, shared desire from investors, developers, local authorities, housing associations and designers to improve the housing offer for older people, and specifically to address the alarming middle-market gap. It’s time to take this broad will and convert it into action through an older people’s housing sector manifesto that raises its profile and establishes a unified voice to influence plan-making and policy.”

For Sowmya Parthasarathy, associate director, Arup, and the mayor’s design advocate, if London is to continue to succeed, built environment professionals must recognise and respond to the opportunities, as well as the challenges, presented by an ageing society.

“We should all advocate for the design of spaces and places that accommodate all generations, this diversity is a key ingredient in the development of a rich, vibrant and liveable city.”

Housing Older Londoners can be found on the Future of London website (pdf).

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