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Why senior living settings must change

The Centre for Ageing Better’s recent research found that ageing is associated with decline and ill-health, and older people are commonly portrayed as frail, vulnerable and dependent.

But today, this attitude to ageing couldn’t be further from the truth.

Decades of improved healthcare and better lifestyles mean that life expectancy has increased – in fact it’s nearly doubled in 200 years. In 1841 in the UK, males could expect to live to 40.2 years and females to 42.3 years. By 1920, this had increased to 56 years for males and 59 years for females.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has caused life expectancy in the UK in 2020 to fall to 78.6 years for males and to 82.6 years for females, the level of a decade ago, many people are enjoying active lifestyles well into their 70s, 80s and even 90s.

Retired, not dead

While many people stop working in their 60s, there are a lot continuing to work well beyond the official age of retirement- look no further than the President of the United States, and other world leaders!

And even if people do choose to leave paid employment at retirement age, they are continuing to be active members of the community and contribute to society.

Some volunteer; according to the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, 65-74-year-olds are the most frequent volunteers, with 29% in this age bracket volunteering once a month, and 42% volunteering once a year.  

Others return to education; Varathaledchumy Shanmuganathan has lived and taught on four different continents, but at 87, made headlines in Canada when she walked the virtual stage to collect her master’s degree in political science.

Many take up new activities, and follow their passions. There are plenty of writers who penned their first novel in retirement, and others discovering new talents in later life; one viral post on Twitter this year featured a clip from the rap duo Pete and Bas, both in their 70s. The video tweet has over 8.2 million views, and has been retweeted nearly 70,000 time. In their working life, Bas was a piano teacher, while Pete worked for the Post Office.

A changing market

More people are kicking back against the stereotypical ‘retiree’ of a cup of tea down the bowling club. A guide created by Greenwood Campbell, Age: Redefined, highlights which trends are going to be impacting the ageing population, and how we can understand and embrace them as organisations, to create empathy and lead the way within our industries.

It points out life has dramatically changed for over the last 70 years and we need to reconsider the way in which we view and market to the older generation.

For instance, looking at technology, the average reaction to touch on an Apple screen is 0.7 seconds, whereas the over-65’s demographic has a response time of 1 second. ‘The nerves in the finger become less sensitive with age, meaning older people may ‘touch’ far more heavily’, leading to the wrong outcome on the device and frustration for the user. Tests even suggest that if an older person has a slight tremor, it can be registered on a device as a swipe rather than a touch. Research has shown that there is a demand for these devices, and so interfaces are being built to soften or negate some of these issues and make using tablets far easier.

When it comes to an older person’s home, smart home devices offer peace of mind for family and caregivers on a much higher scale than that of just providing an emergency necklace or pull cord. Ultimately, smart homes can provide independence, reassurance and security.

What the consumer wants

In the retirement living space, operators and providers need to listen to what the consumer is saying and wanting. Following a survey of homeowners, Octopus Real Estate’s report, Unlocking the retirement opportunity in a post-pandemic world, found almost two in three of over-55s believe that retirement will be the best years of their life.

When asked what they wanted to support their retirement lifestyle, these retirement lifestyle choices are important:

  • Restaurants: 53%
  • Coffee shops: 50%
  • Socialising areas: 45%
  • Activities (e.g., painting/sports/dance clubs): 43%
  • Swimming pool: 42%

The survey revealed top priorities for a living environment in retirement:

  • Feeling safe and secure: 49%
  • Easy maintenance of home: 42%
  • Being close to a town centre: 40%
  • Space for family and friends to stay over: 35%

At HousingLIN’s recent Festival of Ideas Will Bax, Chief Executive Officer of Retirement Villages, believes the challenge is to age well, and he believes housing with care has failed to keep up with the ageing demographic.

He points out societal changes also play a part. There are conversations about sustainability, which Retirement Villages customers want operators to respond to. Plus, there is use of technology; and wellbeing, with an attitudinal shift toward personal health.

Will believes there is a stigma around retirement communities which is rooted in the past, and he points out it is time to put older people back at the heart of communities and remain purposeful for longer.

Intergenerational living is a concept we firmly support, and is one of the five ‘I’s in our approach to senior living solutions. The other four are Inclusion, Influence, Integrated and Informing.

Developing standards

There are limited standards in the retirement living sector but, by adopting our approach to standards, there is an opportunity for operators to become a sector leader.

We are committed to improving the lives of older people, their families and communities, by developing sets of internationally informed standards for senior living and home care to create better outcomes and exemplar practices and models for living.

For operators, a set of standards will help to provide a better experience and engagement of consumers in our society.

They will greatly improve consumer and customer choice and affordability, and provide a framework for continuous improvement and benchmarking.

By creating a ‘community of practice’, we can leave a legacy for our sector.

Maintaining standards isn’t just about a tick from regulatory bodies; standards are essential in helping organisations be innovative, reduce costs, and maintain respect and competitiveness in the marketplace.

Talk to us about developing standards for your organisation.

Contact us on +44 (0) 203 753 5312 or by email,

For more ideas, innovative programmes and articles of interest from around the world, please follow us on:

Twitter, @StandardsWise,

Facebook, @StandardsWiseIntl and

LinkedIn, @standards-wise-international.

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