Later Living Stateside Inspires UK Market Growth

According to ARCO, the main body representing the Retirement Community sector in the UK, only 0.6% of people aged over 65 live in retirement communities in the UK compared to 6.1% of people over 65 in the US. The Knight Frank Senior Living review for 2020 highlighted that there is a ‘significant supply and demand imbalance’ for retirement housing in the UK which accounts for this lower rate. Consequently, in the next five years we should expect to see significant growth in the market.

There has been a culture of retirement villages in the US for over 50 years, with the first village built in the middle of the Arizona desert in1960. The idea behind Sun City was to build an entire community dedicated to leisure and recreation for the retired active adult. At the time, it was considered a radical idea, however after the opening weekend the development had sold over 237 homes and attracted coverage in the national news. Sun City now includes 27,000 homes with many of the new retirees young enough to be the grandchildren of its original residents. The Villages is another later living community in the US, located just north of Orlando, Florida. It’s the fastest growing master-planned community in the country, growing by approximately 4,500 annually and occupying parts of three counties.

UK retirement operators and housebuilders have been taking influence and inspiration from the American model since the 1990’s, when they started creating village style developments. However, not every aspect of the US villages are appealing to the UK retiree, so for our developers, it’s a case of striking a balance and ‘cherry picking’ the best features.

The US retirement villages are well known for offering excellent recreational facilities. The Villages in Florida boasts 693 golf courses, 100 tennis courts, over 100 dining choices as well as shops, fire stations and even its own police force. This allows the residents to be self-sufficient, almost never needing to leave the development.

The baby boomer impact on the later living market has meant that many current UK retirees don’t want to live in gated complexes, disconnected from society and the rest of their families. The current generation of retirees in the UK have been exposed to exciting cultural shifts within their lifetime – they want social interaction, not just with their own generation but with other generations too. So while many retirement villages in the UK are now including luxury, five star facilities such as golf courses, health spas and tennis courts – like our US counterparts – the developments are often located close to towns with shuttle bus or car hire services offered to provide that connection to the local community.

Our client, Audley Villages – an operator at the forefront of the later living sector – made the decision to open up their health clubs to non-resident members, further enhancing this connection and encouraging intergenerational socialisation. The recently completed Audley Nightingale Place, located in the busy and bustling area of Clapham, is the first central London development for Audley and provides an urban retreat for London retirees over the age of 55 who still enjoy the fast pace and buzz of city living. It is elegant and characterful, with superb facilities and services reflecting the best that London has to offer. The bar bistro, named ‘No 3’, as a subtle nod to the address of the development, will be open to the public when lockdown measures are lifted. Located next to a primary school and in a prime position opposite Clapham Common, the venue will be sure to attract school Mums, nannies and young professionals when it re-opens its doors, giving further opportunities for the owners of Nightingale Place to mingle with the Clapham elite.

Retirement operators such as Riverstone Living and Auriens Group are now opening developments in desirable postcodes such as Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham. So while the UK may never need (or want) to match the scale of retirement villages in the US, as the market develops in the UK, it will be fantastic to see further projects like Audley Nightingale Place emerge in and around city centres, enabling more people to enjoy the lifestyle that luxury retirement villages provide.

“UK retirement operators and housebuilders have been taking influence and inspiration from the American model since the 1990’s, when they started creating village style developments.”


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Photography © Neale Smith / Kristen McCluskie