Can build to rent help our ageing population?

The Findings

There have been many reports lately addressing the concern of ageism within society. This has flared up after a report published on 8th June 2018 by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation revealed damning negative ageist attitudes across the UK. This was mainly found in Millennials, who make up a quarter of our population. 30% of Millennials held negative views towards our ageing population, basically writing them off! Such negative attitudes were found to present health issues to the elderly as they live in the mist of such adversity, instigating mental health issues and even shortening life expectancy. The report highlights a number of plans to turn this attitude around including education within schools, promoting age diversity in the workplace, banning the term ‘anti-aging’ on cosmetics and, more importantly to us, the idea of integrating generations.


Can Build to Rent help?

Could the Build to Rent sector help to integrate generations? We have schemes of our members where this is already happening, and it is working well! Essential Livinghave a development where they have a 92-year-old tenant and four fellow residents take the time to check on him. They also have a number of other tenants that are aged 60+, happily living amongst the youngsters, families and middle agers. This was not a term of the agreement or the primary intention of the development, this has all happened organically. Many companies also host shows and events for residents, giving all residents an excuse to get together and get to know each other.  This takes people out of their flats and actually ‘integrating’, which is exactly what the report sets out to achieve. BtR is doing this! Mark Flint from Essential Living told us:

“From the very start our aim has been to nurture community within each of our buildings. A diverse mix of residents of all ages makes for a thriving community, which has helped make our developments highly desirable places to live. Build-to-Rent is certainly a viable solution to help the UK’s ageing population. The age range of our residents is vast – from as young as 18 to as old as 92. What’s common throughout though is their shared desire to live in a community where they can have a meaningful connection with their neighbours.”

There is also now a model that is built around the integration of tenants of all ages, incentivising the youngers tenants to carry out the charitable act of becoming a helping hand and friend to the older tenants that are less able. The incentive would offer a discount on rent or other monetary savings of some kind would be offered. We spoke to Justin Shee from The Kohab about their new model:

“At The Kohab, we are creating the first consciously curated intergenerational co-living schemes in the UK.  We are bringing the co-living movement to the retirement market, based upon successful European co-habitational models.  By holding back a number of units in our schemes for younger residents to live in at a discounted rent, we can create the kind of dynamic and energetic communities which traditional retirement living lacks.  Evidence clearly shows that intergenerational living is mutually beneficial to all involved and can have profound outcomes in terms of improving physical and mental wellbeing.”

The PRSim tenant survey released two weeks ago also shows evidence that people seek to live in a place where they are living amongst all different kinds of people, including different age groups. Surely we can all benefit from living around people from a different age group, sometimes it’s enlightening to hear about how life is from a different age perspective.

A positive outlook

Channel 4 aired a programme showing the positive impacts of placing a nursey within a retirement community, the positive effects this had on health and happiness was immense.  What if we just kept the older generations in society for longer, rather than have them move to a retirement home or such? Most of us have the compassion and heart to make sure our neighbours are well and know where to come for help, this is the sense of ‘community’ after all. A safe and friendly environment is surely desired by us all, millennials, families and the elderly alike. This is the aim of many Build to Rent developments, the chance to create a community from scratch, knowing the people around you. The UKAA have many members who have seen evidence of their developments already exercising the integration of generations, and it’s working for everyone.

It can be argued that Build to Rent can bring positive changes to attitudes that our society currently holds towards the elderly. BtR is popular amongst Millennials, this could be our chance to encourage a change in attitudes, working towards providing positive experiences for all in co-living.