Shaping Our Future: Together

ARCO: The Associated Retirement Community Operators, is the main body representing the retirement community sector in the UK. Founded in 2012, ARCO is now comprised of 27 private and not-for-profit operators of Retirement Communities. Retirement communities offer integrated accommodation, catering and personal care for older people and are intended to enable residents to remain ‘independent, active and supported as they age’.

Nationally, we have an aging population in our midst: a recent report commissioned by JLL (“UK Care Homes: An opportunity to build communities and invest capital”) highlighted that the rate of growth in the over 85s age group, will be seven times that of the overall UK population and 16 times faster than the working age population. In spite of this, the UK senior living market currently lags behind our European counterparts and beyond, not only in terms of choice and diversity of product, but perhaps also in terms of perception: only O.9% households over 65 in England and Wales live in housing with care.

The current challenge and accelerated change

COVID-19 has catapulted the care-sector into the spotlight and whilst not entirely for good reason, it has brought to the fore the urgency of action required from the development sector – if the supply and delivery of purpose built homes is to have any chance of keeping up with demographic pressures. As outlined in the JLL Report, this pressure currently equates to a requirement of 10,000 additional beds per annum. over the next decade!

Whilst the pandemic has drastically impacted life on a global level, it has also accelerated fundamental shifts in thinking – socially, environmentally and economically, as we consider a reprioritising of the needs and wants of our post-pandemic selves. With flexible, remote working here to stay, relocating closer to family, friends, or in search of greater choice of amenities (such as cafés, parks), have been high on the agenda as the nation re-evaluate their quality of life, and quite simply, what is truly important to them.

Isolation and loneliness have long been a concern for our aging population, however, for those classified high-risk, isolation in recent months has left many feeling completely cut-off from society. A recent sharp rise in demand for Retirement Communities (as reported by ARCO) is therefore unsurprising, with older people seeking out both the company and the safety net, that Retirement Communities provide.

This fuels the need to open up the dialogue around the housing-for care-model: there’s a general assumption that we move into a care-home when we’re old and need the help, however the largest and most in-depth poll ever conducted of UK Retirement Community residents, and prospective residents, has found that people who live in Retirement Communities lead healthier, more active, more social, more secure and happier lives, than those who have not yet moved to a Retirement Community. Findings within ARCO and Promatura International’s report show that whilst 90% of residents thought they had moved into a Retirement Community at just the right time in their lives, 6% would rather they’d moved sooner!

The need for a new perspective

The market is certainly shifting: the growth of flexible working will likely result in a shrinking of office space, rendering a need to consider how to best optimise the use of space in our towns and cities. The industry must be plugged-in to alternative opportunities (both in terms of investment and spatially), such as strengthening and facilitating the provision of care-home beds within wider masterplans and more. This won’t come without it’s challenges and certainly more guidance will be required from local governments in due course, with particular regard to the longstanding confusion which has surrounded classifications on housing for older people, and which may in part be reason for many developers not progressing with this type of development. With many across the sector pledging commitment to net zero carbon buildings across the UK, it’s important to remember that development can only be sustainable, if it delivers for all.

Our Vision

At GIA Surveyors, we’re proud to have been delivering accurate strategic guidance and solutions within our specialist areas, to inform the positive development of our communities for over 25 years. Multidisciplinary in nature, we’re on hand to guide our clients through the many  often-complex areas of the development process, such as third-party constraints and negotiations.

We understand that every site presents different challenges and opportunities, thus we  provide a bespoke, yet holistic support to planning and development risk, which encapsulates translating: Planning guidance into design advice; Rights of Light constraints into opportunities for enhanced development and risk management; and, complex construction boundaries with neighbours into creative design solutions, generating unique  solutions for every project on which we consult.

Our Added Value

Daylight and Sunlight are important considerations within new development, key amenity space and on neighbouring properties. The impacts are pivotal, not only in determining the amount of massing achievable on any given site, but in understanding the quality of daylight and sunlight amenity within proposed accommodation: this will be a particularly pertinent consideration within any housing-for-older-people development, where residents will generally spend more time at home or in the garden, than perhaps some standard urban residential accommodation, where occupiers may be away from home more during the working day –  normal circumstances considered.

GIA’s cutting-edge technological innovations enables risk and opportunities to be identified at the earliest stages of the project journey, facilitating a focused understanding of optimally designed internal layouts, site massing and location of amenity space, and saving on time, costs and abortive design iterations, Understanding the intricacies of the site from the offset, enables the best risk management strategies for key matters, such as Rights of Light and Boundary issues, to be devised and implemented accordingly.

Shaping “Our” Future: Together

ARCO believes that meaningful, long-lasting partnerships and commitments are at the heart of solving the challenge of meeting the housing, care, and support needs of our aging population and have recently issued a call for a Government task force to help tackle the obstacles which are holding back the growth in supply of good quality housing-with-care for older people. As recently and rightly identified by Kevin Beirne of Octopus Real Estate: “We obsess around first- time buyers, but really the big social issue and the big social impact is about aging”.

GIA Surveyors are very much looking forward to using our expertise to assist this important sector to develop quality schemes across the UK, that will not only help the growing housing demands for older people, but that fully support the current and future needs of our aging population.

On our involvement with the network, Senior Partner, Jerome Webb, who has been instrumental in securing this, informs,

“GIA Surveyors has specialist and unique skills and services that can be of specific value and benefit to the Retirement Living sector in helping them achieve their aims and aspiration in terms of the quality and deliverability of development.”

We’re extremely delighted to be part of it!

For more information or to discuss this further, contact: