Legal & General’s increasing focus on the later living sector has continued apace, with the financial services firm recently announcing its first retirement development in London.
The company, an early pioneer and major player in the burgeoning Build to Rent sector, has acquired a site for its first later living development in the capital, in Uxbridge, within the borough of Hillingdon.
The site will be developed and operated by Guild Living, Legal & General’s specialist urban later living business.
Guild Living will develop the Uxbridge town centre site, which is currently a retail warehouse occupied by Halfords and Wilkes, to create new later living apartments alongside intergenerational facilities that will be open to the whole community.
Furthermore, the development will offer additional tailored care suites that aim to support local NHS services by helping people who leave hospital to staircase back to independent living.
A third of Hillingdon’s population – more than 78,000 people – are aged 50 or over, according to the 2011 census. Despite being considered a ‘young’ city, with its reputation as a hotbed for students and young professionals, London as a whole is actually home to 1.1 million over-65s, according to Age UK.
What’s more, this figure is anticipated to rise by 86% in the next 30 years, underlining the pressing need for more purpose-built housing for older people. This has been brought into sharper focus than ever before by the current coronavirus pandemic, which – as well as affecting people in care homes disproportionately – has also shone a very clear light on how broken and under-funded the UK’s adult social care system is in its current form.
To address the UK’s chronic undersupply of age-specific accommodation, Legal & General has established two specialist businesses, Inspired Villages and Guild Living, to meet the changing needs of older generations. The firm said the combined GDV of these businesses is more than £2.8 billion.
Research published this month (June 4) by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI) revealed that only 2.5% of the UK’s 29 million dwellings are defined as ‘retirement housing’. The CSFI research revealed that just 7,000 new homes built each year are designed for older people, insufficient to serve the 180,000 households aged 65-or-over that will be created each year over the next decade.
Legal & General argues that increasing the number of purpose-built homes for older people would provide greater choice for those who want to downsize. Retirement villages have also been shown to offer significant health benefits to residents, including a 50% fall in GP visits and an 80% decrease in hospital stays.
Guild Living aims to offer a new model of housing for those in later life, concentrated on ‘delivering safe and secure communities in urban centres that offer a flexible provision of care to meet individual needs’. This, it says, enables residents to maintain independence, access local services and remain connected to their friends and family.
Community facilities, such as cafes, wellness centres and children’s nurseries, are set to be central to each scheme, bringing different generations together and ensuring each project becomes a local hub rather than a gated community. Whether these plans will be compatible with potentially long-term Covid-19 restrictions is, however, less clear-cut.
Guild Living is also partnering with leading academics to design its tailored care programmes, with its first research partnership already launched with the University of Bath. The research will be led by Professor Malcolm Johnson, one of the team of academics featured in Channel 4’s BAFTA-winning televised experiment Old People’s Home for 4-Year-Olds.
The firm’s founders claim there are huge societal and economic benefits from reinstating older people back into the hearts of communities, with the grey pound also said to be worth an estimated £320 billion, according to Saga, ‘highlighting the untapped potential of older consumers’.
Eugene Marchese, co-founder and director at Guild Living, said: “There is a clear and growing need for age-appropriate housing both in London and across the UK. Our ambition is to create communities that are safe and secure so local people can live and maintain their local links while protecting their independence.”
He added: “We want to de-stigmatise this market by providing a different kind of product that uses academic research to tailor its wellbeing and care offering. Uxbridge is a thriving town and an amazing local community, and we are excited to work with the Council and the community to bring forward proposals that add to the local area.”
Phil Bayliss, chief executive of Later Living at Legal & General, commented: “Legal & General’s long-term investment is supporting Guild Living in revolutionising later living in an urban setting. It has never been more important to tackle social isolation and deliver housing where people really want to live, while also finding new ways to revitalise our high streets.”
He added: “Having acquired four sites in less than a year, the growth trajectory of the Guild Living business is phenomenal. This latest scheme in London is a perfect example. London is often seen as a young city, but actually has the fastest growing over-50s population. We have to be prepared to meet these changing dynamics.”
Whether the later living sector – which is built on the ethos of community, communal facilities, social events and combating loneliness – can thrive in a world where social distancing is still being prioritised and where many older, clinically vulnerable people are still being advised to shield, is certainly up for debate.
On the other hand, the crisis in many care homes during the pandemic may suggest that a different, more tailored model – which tackles social isolation as well as health and wellbeing – is one key solution moving forward.