Media Release

Boost retirement housing to stop pensioners fleeing cities for coast and countryside, think-tank says

Older people should be helped to spend their later years in new urban retirement housing in town and city centres rather than heading for the coast or the countryside, a new think-tank report says today.

A report by the Social Market Foundation, sponsored by housing and regeneration specialist Kajima, said that increasing the number of people who retire in urban areas would bring benefits to retirees and the country as a whole.

More specialised retirement housing in towns and cities would allow more older people to benefit from urban living, including better public services, as well as better health outcomes and less loneliness, the SMF said.

Slowing the flow of older people to rural and coastal communities could also bring benefits to those places too.

The SMF, a cross-party think-tank, said that the uneven ageing of different parts of the country is creating unequal – and growing – pressure on services and local economies.

By 2043, several coastal and rural local authorities will have a majority of households that are retired. West Somerset is forecast to have 59% of its households aged 65+, more than any other. (See Notes)

Many rural parts of the UK have ageing populations. Amongst the top 20 local authorities forecast to have the highest proportion of over-65 households by 2043, almost all are either rural or coastal communities.

The SMF said this was likely to increase housing supply pressures in countryside areas. As a result, older people often remain in underoccupied homes due to a lack of suitable or desirable accommodation elsewhere. Meanwhile, property in such areas is increasingly unaffordable for younger families.

In a “Provocation Paper” seeking to spark debate about social trends and policies, Scott Corfe of the SMF argued that more should be done to slow the flow of older people from urban areas towards costal and countryside communities.

Better urban housing is key to that, but Corfe said that there is not enough of the right types of housing for older people available. It has been estimated that approximately three million people in the UK over the age of 65 want to downsize. (See Notes)

The UK has a limited stock of retirement homes, with just 1% of Britons over 60 currently living in specialist retirement properties, compared to 17% in the US and 13% in Australia.

SMF said this represented an opportunity for policymakers and developers to ensure the elderly have a broader range of accommodation choice and that failing to do so was costing both retirees and the taxpayer.

An estimated two million older people suffer physical and mental ill health and even death as a consequence of living in substandard and non-accessible homes.

Building more retirement homes like assisted living properties and sheltered housing in town and city centres could form part of the solution for improving health outcomes for retirees and ease the pressures of an ageing population in rural parts of the country.

Part of the retirement housing dividend would also include an inflow of spending in local high street areas. ONS data show over 65s are responsible for over a fifth (21%) of all household spending.

There would also be benefits for house prices, with SMF estimates suggesting that a 50,000 per annum increase in the supply of desirable retirement homes could lead to a 5% reduction in overall house prices in England.


Scott Corfe, Research Director, Social Market Foundation, said:

“People should always be free to decide where to spend their retirement, but Britain’s housing market means too many people don’t have a full range of options. Better provision of retirement housing in towns and cities would give people more choices.  

“The trend for older people to flee from urban areas to the coast or the countryside can have unforeseen consequences. Too many retirees end up in unsuitable, oversized and often unsafe homes, while rising property prices exclude younger families from local housing.  

“Local authority areas where the majority of residents are over 65 could struggle to provide their populations with adequate services, and such communities may lack cohesion and intergenerational mixing.  

“Housing options that allowed more older people to choose to retire in towns and cities would offer benefits to retirees, to urban economies and to wider society.”  


Kirk Taylor, Development Director at Kajima, said:

 “The number of people over 65 is expected to rise by 7.5-8.5 million during the next 30 years, with the percentage of over-65s set to rise from almost 20% to around 25% by the end of this decade. Yet many live in homes that are too large for them. More than three million family homes are deemed to be underoccupied in this way – while there’s a shortage of homes for young families.

“An expansion of retirement housing, with smart safety features and a community focus, would help meet the needs of older people, whilst increasing the availability of our existing housing stock for younger generations looking to start their own families.

“As just one example, at Kajima we have worked with Newcastle City Council to deliver more affordable housing that keeps local older residents in their community. So there is an appetite and opportunity here for the UK Government and local authorities to work with firms like Kajima, who are developing and investing in new and existing communities, to deliver retirement housing that can both improve lives and address the housing crisis.”



  • The paper, The Retirement Housing Dividend, is published 5th December 2021 at 09:00 at It was sponsored by Kajima UK, a construction company. The SMF retained full editorial independence.
  • Demand for downsizing, see:
  • Ageing local populations: The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) forecasts compare the number of households in England in 2018 and 2043. These show the number of households where the household reference person2 (HRP) is aged 65 and above increasing by 47%, from 6.7 million to 9.8 million. Over a third (36%) of households are set to have a reference person over the age of 65 by 2043, up from 29% in 2018.
  • By 2043, some 17 local authorities in England will have a majority of households with an HRP aged 65 or above, compared with zero in 2018 (see table below). West Somerset is expected to have close to three in five (59%) of households with an HRP aged 65 or above, more than any other local authority.
1. West Somerset
2. West Dorset
3. Rother
4. East Dorset
5. North Norfolk
6. Christchurch
7. Dorset
8. Purbeck
9. Suffolk Coastal
10. Isle of Wight
11. New Forest
12. North Dorset
13. Chichester
14. East Devon
15. East Lindsey
16. Arun
17. Wyre


About Kajima Europe

Kajima Europe (“Kajima”) is a real asset investor, developer and manager. From homes to hospitals, learning spaces to working places, civic buildings to care facilities, Kajima shapes places around the people who use them. Kajima aims to identify investment opportunities on a project-by-project basis, benefitting from the significant resources of its parent company (Kajima Corporation) and collaborating with existing and new partners to develop, invest and enhance equity in a diverse range of assets. Kajima works across six key sectors: workplaces, logistics, living, social infrastructure, regeneration, and renewable energy, providing creative building solutions to both the public and private sectors.

Notable development projects by Kajima in the UK include 77 Coleman, a commercial development in London, the Estate Modernisation Programme for South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, and Rochdale Town Centre, a mixed-use regeneration project in partnership with Genr8. Across Europe, Kajima’s focus is primarily on commercial properties, including European logistics, PRS and Student Housing.




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