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Think Tank calls for greater regulation of Retirement Communities

A report published by The International Longevity Centre has urged the government to introduce specific legislation and an overall regulatory framework for the retirement community sector.

Retirement communities, also known as housing-with-care or extra care, are growing in popularity in the UK. Ranging from options for affordable rent to high end luxury developments for sale, retirement communities allow older people to own or rent their own accommodation while making use of on-site support or care services as well as facilities such as swimming pools, libraries, hairdressers and bistros.

A relatively new concept for the UK, retirement communities have been found to tackle loneliness, shorten hospital stays and reduce risk of falls for older people.

Despite growth in the supply of housing-with-care in the UK, the report found that the number of new units per year would need to be more than double to meet demand.

Drawing on lessons from New Zealand, Australia and the US, the report urged the government to consider a number of measures to stimulate expansion of the sector while protecting older consumers. Most notably, the report called for the introduction of specific legislation and an overall regulatory framework specifically for the retirement community sector. This sits alongside suggestions for the implementation of a specific land use classification for housing-with-care and the need to develop robust industry standards to protect older consumers. The report was supported by ARCO and Legal & General.

Commenting on the findings, Michael Voges, Executive Director at ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators) said:

“We often point to other countries to highlight just how inadequate the level of supply of housing with care is in the UK. This report clearly articulates the need for a more consistent legislative and regulatory approach for our sector. We want to get to where other countries already are, and ARCO and its members will be advocating higher levels of consumer protection in the years to come. Customers, operators and investors all need more clarity for this sector to expand, and meet the housing and care needs of our ageing population.”

ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact

Mhairi Tordoff, Policy and Communications Assistant, at [email protected] or on 07415 683 783

Michael Voges, ARCO’s Executive Director, at [email protected] or on 0203 697 1204

Notes to editors

  1. About ARCO: ARCO (the Associated Retirement Community Operators) is the trade association for operators of housing-with-care developments for older people. ARCO was founded in 2012, and is now comprised of 30 private and not-for-profit operators of retirement communities. ARCO represents approximately 50% of the retirement community sector. ARCO sets high standards, and all ARCO members must adhere to the externally assessed ARCO Consumer Code. ARCO does not represent the traditional retirement housing model where there are limited services and no care is available.
  2. Research: The Full Report ‘Stronger Foundations: International Lessons for the Housing-with-care Sector in the UK’ is available at ilcuk.org.uk/index.php/publications.
  3. About retirement communities:Retirement communities typically consist of individual one or two bedroom flats or small houses, located in a development of similar properties. Residents have access to a range of services and facilities, which will usually include optional on-site care, 24-hour staffing, and dining and leisure facilities, and may also include bars, gyms and craft rooms. Retirement communities are also sometimes referred to as housing-with-care schemes; retirement villages; extra care housing; assisted living; or close care apartments. They sit in between traditional retirement houses (which have less extensive staffing and leisure facilities), and care homes, and can be in urban or suburban locations.
  4. Benefits of retirement communities:
  • Meeting the needs of an ageing population: Older people need and want choice in their housing for later life. However, at present housing options for older people are limited. Retirement communities are an important element of housing choice for older people. Developing the capacity of the retirement community sector is vital to ensuring that the UK’s housing market is fit to meet the needs of an ageing population.
  • Promoting independence, security and wellbeing: Older people living in retirement communities are likely to experience lower levels of loneliness and social isolation. A 2014 study by the International Longevity Centre found that 82% of respondents in retirement communities said they hardly or never felt isolated, and only 1% often felt isolated.
  • Reducing costs and encouraging more efficient use of resources: Residents in retirement communities are able to receive specialist care in their homes if needed, enabling them to return home from hospital earlier. They are also less likely to enter hospital. For example, one way in which retirement communities improve health is by preventing falls. Retirement community properties are designed and built with adaptations to support independence and research shows that those living in these specialist homes are between 1.5 and 2.8 times less likely to have a fall than those living in homes without adaptations. This helps to reduce pressure on NHS services. A recent study found that NHS costs were reduced by 38% for those moving into retirement village housing and NHS costs for ‘frail’ residents had reduced by 51.5% after 12 months.
  • Responding to the housing shortage: Older people moving to a retirement community will typically ‘downsize’, freeing up much needed and under-occupied family sized homes. If all those interested in moving into a retirement property were able to do so, research suggests that approximately 3.29 million properties would be released, including nearly 2 million three-bedroom homes.