The retirement community sector is ripe for disruption.
Still a relatively new market, it has an under-provision of nearly 70% across the UK. What’s more, only 22% of planning permissions were developed between 2016 and 2019, and that number is falling, according to Carterwood.
The sector clearly needs a rethink. The assumptions and ‘good-enough’ models that currently characterise it and its pipeline are trapped in a time-warp. This risks failing to meet the expectations of a savvy and increasingly demanding market of customers intent on maximising their lifestyle choices post-retirement.
With the kids gone and the door closed on careers, this market’s priorities shift – especially as they are still healthy, able and active. Although security and access to care are still important considerations, downsizing is no longer forced on them but a choice willingly embraced.
They want to organise their lives differently. The big question is, “How?”
Currently, we don’t know enough about our market of customers or how they want to live.
The burgeoning medical evidence in support of healthy lifestyles is influencing preferences, a virtuous spiral that prevents ill-health, relieves pressure on social and health care, and boosts happiness. What will customers benefitting from this positive feedback loop expect from future tenure options, management and, crucially, designs of homes?
Another overwhelming influence on the market is the rising concern for ethical issues, especially climate change. Even before regulation requires higher standards, customers are likely to be hunting for low- or zero-carbon planet-friendly housing options.
It’s clear we’re at a tipping point in the industry more generally. A confluence of innovative technologies is opening up new vistas of opportunity and value. Digital workflows are enabling automation and untold efficiency, producing information that facilitates manufacturing techniques that unleash extraordinary quality, sustainability, and safety in buildings.
Can we go further?
Can Society 5.0 and 5G mobilize the signals from social media, wearables, built-in sensors to close the data loop? With due respect for personal data security, capturing and learning from this information could revolutionize and validate later living design.
Being able to understand the choices people make and how they use space would allow us not just to meet demand but uncover needs as yet unknown.
Is the unwitting demographic segregation implicit in retirement villages the best model? Should trends in open-plan living affect this sector more? How important is it to cater for down-sizers’ storage needs?
With ownership of ‘stuff’ on the wane, should there be tenure options available that allow customers to embark on ‘land cruises’, with digital visas allowing them to stop here, there, and elsewhere for 6 months, a year, five years depending on how they feel?
Our Inhabitant series shows that we’re doing well. Residents like Jane (main image) at our Bournville Gardens Village with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust and Bournville Village Trust give us tantalising glimpses vindicating our focus on space, community, respect, and activities – all qualities that reflect the development’s charitable roots.
Despite our deep experience and market-leading expertise, we’re not complacent. To capitalize on the potential for growth in this sector, we continue to explore the next generation of human-centred later living models.
If this excites you as much it does us, come talk to us.