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Lockdown loneliness sees retirees embrace new ways of living

  • Rise in communal living amongst over 65s 
  • Four in 10 say pandemic has prompted a move to independent retirement living
  • 50% have seen five people or less over the past year  
  • Property management provider, FirstPort has seen a 15% increase in independent retirement property sales

Four in 10 (40%) over 65s say the pandemic has made them decide to move into an independent living retirement development, as people seek fun and friendship after lockdown.  

Half of those polled (50%) said they’ve seen no more than five members of their friends and family in the last year, with 27% seeing less than three people. When asked what they found particularly difficult during lockdown, not seeing family and friends (66%), feeling bored (28%) and feeling isolated (20%) were amongst the top answers. Almost half (48%) of those looking to move hope that it will help them build new connections and friendships.  

FirstPort, the UK’s leading residential property services provider, manages 1,300 independent living retirement developments across the UK and for the majority, communal lounges are seen as the ‘hub’ of the community. The research was conducted to celebrate the reopening of communal lounges for residents in England and Wales from 17 May, which have been closed for the last year due to lockdown measures. 

FirstPort, have seen a 15% increase in average monthly property sales in 2021 compared with 2020, reflecting pent up demand and a change in retirement property needs as over a quarter (27%) of retirees claim the pandemic has changed the way they see retirement living.  

The survey of more than 1,000 retirees found that over two thirds (69%) believe you can have as much fun in your 60s as you can in your 20s. When asked what they were looking forward to doing when restrictions lift, respondents said socialising with friends (68%), going to the pub (31%) and reconnecting with a community group they are part of (15%).  

 With lockdown restrictions lifting and residents being able to socialise in communal lounges once more, FirstPort, a member of the Partners Programme at the International Longevity Centre, spoke to ILC’s Senior Research Fellow, Dr Brian Beach, who said: 

 “The restrictions over the last year have impacted all our lives, with some of the impacts particularly affecting older people. This research has highlighted important changes in older people’s perceptions of retirement living and the influence of the pandemic on these changes; nearly a quarter (23%) of those looking to move into a retirement community had not considered this before lockdown.  

 “Hopefully, this shift signals greater awareness of the benefits that retirement communities provide in terms of improved lifestyle and social connections. My own work over the years has demonstrated the value of retirement living in reducing isolation and loneliness, along with better outcomes related to health and independence. 

 “Modern and purpose-built retirement communities will continue to rise in popularity as more and more people recognise their value in enhancing later life by providing ample opportunities to foster social connections. It’s great to see that lounges in these developments are beginning to open again, as they offer vital social contact for many after a difficult year.” 

 Lee Richards, Director of Market Services at FirstPort, said:  

 “This time last year the sector was in a completely different place. The pandemic put off many people considering moving and we saw exchanges during the first lockdown decline by 64% compared to the same period in 2019. However, now the picture is much more positive. As restrictions ease and people build their confidence, interest in specialist retirement living communities has increased with both more properties on the market and more sales. Following an isolating and challenging year, we’re seeing more and more interest from retirees who want to embrace community living. Our retirement properties have a dedicated development manager to support the community and we encourage anyone wanting to view the properties we manage to get in touch with our specialist estate agency, Retirement Homesearch.” 

 Angela, resident at Homeborough House, a FirstPort managed independent living retirement development, said: “After my husband’s passing, the prospect of moving back to the UK from our house in Spain and into a retirement development was daunting as I wasn’t sure where I could be happy again. Luckily, I met Sheila in the communal lounges a few days after moving in. Sheila’s husband had also recently passed and acted as a much-needed friend. We were both able to help each other get through our grief and mend our broken hearts with friendship. It is difficult to make friends when you are older, and I was surprised to find someone who I have so much in common with at my age. 

 “Sheila and I love walking together to the local village and often cook dinner for each other. The lockdown has meant we haven’t been able to see each other face to face so the reopening of the lounges this month will be so important to reconnect our friendship after such a tricky year.” 

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