Older Persons Housing: The Solution to Town Centres in Decline

Footfall is declining in town centres with a drop of 17% over the last 10 Years in certain areas[1]. The trend of out-of-town retailing and online shopping has seen many businesses either close or scale back their high-street presence. This was accelerated through the pandemic and has left our town centres and high streets feeling like ghost towns.

Meanwhile, the UK has an ageing population with an astronomical 38% growth predicted in people aged 65+ in the next 20 years[2] and a lack of age-appropriate housing to meet the diverse needs and aspirations of this cohort. The lack of appropriate housing and consumer choice is making a significant contribution to the wider housing crisis.

When an older person’s housing offer is combined with a town centre location, a unique opportunity is created to solve two problems at once. As a result of positioning an attractive, lifestyle-oriented older persons housing offer, town centres can be sustainably revitalized, and aspirational retirement housing can be delivered.

WWA has developed a concept to create highly sustainable, attractive homes to reflect the expectations of the market. There would be varying sizes of accommodation that could adapt to the changing needs of the individual, as well as integrated communal gardens and outdoor space. To actively contribute to the town centre, the street-facing ground floor would be public-facing communal areas. The accommodation can be tailored to the size of the plot to provide an integrated retirement community or retirement housing while also reusing brownfield land in a sustainable manner.

The town centre has numerous advantages, the most important of which are as follows:

  • Reuse of redundant sites contributing to a revitalised town centre.
  • Creation of high-quality, distinctive homes with flexible communal spaces depending on the needs of the local area.
  • Release of equity from residents who have downsized will increase economic activity in the town centre.

There are numerous positive effects on the provision of age-appropriate housing, including:

  • Fantastic transport links and access to services for residents.
  • Helps to prevent social isolation and loneliness through having a community hub in town centres.
  • Majority of people move from within 3 miles and therefore this would also release larger family homes to the wider housing market.
  • A town centre location is more commercially viable for operators as the on-site service provision can be reduced owing to the town centre offer.

We are convinced that this concept represents a fantastic commercial opportunity, with the potential to help solve the chronic shortage of age-appropriate housing and breathe new life into town centres and high streets.

For further information please contact Mark Slater at our London Office on Tel: 0208 941 5161.


[1] MHCLG – Oral Evidence: High Streets and Town Centres in 2030, HC 1010

[2] The Mayhew Review: Future-proofing retirement living – Dec 2022

Images: Freepik  (Houses & City) / Branch Closure / Elderly Couple