By Steven Simpson, MD of Cruden Homes
In just 20 years from now, a quarter of the UK population will be aged 65 or over. That’s a sharp rise from where we are now, at around 20%, and it is a figure that will affect how society organises everything, from holidays and healthcare to transport and technology.
Many sectors have already started planning ahead, shaping their products and services to suit this growing mature market, but not everyone is ready to meet their needs and so far the housing sector has been slow to respond to changing demographics.
It is not just that the number of bungalows being built annually has declined drastically, but aside from statutory obligations over accessibility, few developers are looking at their products through the lens of older buyers and working out what their needs may be.
Yet failing to do so could have serious consequences as keeping older people locked into unsuitable housing can impact on health and independence, which as well as making life more difficult for individuals, also carries a price tag for society.
There is evidence that making a move to appropriate housing before the need for it arises can have a positive impact on wellbeing but the term ‘retirement accommodation’ has acquired negative connotations and looking at much of what is on offer, with its beige tones and institutional styling, it is not hard to see why. The small amount of age-targeted housing that has been available until now has failed to meet the aspirations of buyers who, while taking a sensible approach to future-proofing their homes, have no intentions of sacrificing independence or style in order to do so.
Before launching its new brand, Juniper Residential, which specialises in the over-55s market, Cruden Homes spent time looking at what was already on offer and discovering what people approaching retirement were looking for in a new home. We soon realised that, alongside a supportive local community and social networks, contemporary design and kerb-appeal were desirable and that if a downstairs bedroom and shower room were part of layout, then homes over two floors were still highly sought-after.
So at our first development at Muirwood Gardens in Kinross that’s what we’ve done, building a mixture of 41 two and three-bedroom bungalows, villas and cottage flats, some with open-plan kitchens, all with luxury fittings and the sort of interiors that you would expect to find in a boutique hotel. With subtle adaptations, clever technology and the option to upgrade the support package if necessary, we’ve created homes that provide all the benefits of a retirement community without any of the compromises.
We chose the site carefully so that it is in easy walking distance from shops, cafes and amenities, adjacent to a golf course and within easy reach of beautiful countryside, yet less than 10 minutes from the M90. And we provided a clubhouse for social gatherings, which is already being well-used, and a guest suite which can be booked by anyone within Muirwood Gardens, for when friends and family come to visit.
Even during the pandemic, when we expected sales to slow, the houses have been snapped up very quickly and by a wide range of different buyers and age groups, some with local connections and others who wanted to swap the overcrowded south east of England for the fresh air of Scotland.
Today’s retirees have no intentions of slowing down, but they are pragmatic, and so the solution for housing that appeals to this market must be aspirational, while still addressing practical needs.