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‘Retirement living is an untapped market’

Investors should look at social as well as demographic trends, as attitudes and expectations among Europe’s ageing population are changing fast. As more people are willing to live in senior housing, there is huge scope for developing the sector, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s Cradle to Grave – Urban Being – The Future of City Living Investment Briefing, which was held in Berlin recently.

‘Retirement living is an untapped market,’ said Clare Thomas, Partner, CMS, told Real Asset Insight. ‘Less than 1% of Europeans live in specialist retirement properties, compared to 17% in the US, so there is a lot of catching up to do’.

A new CMS survey shows that 61% of Europeans would consider renting when retired, yet the supply of retirement homes and in particular of affordable senior housing is very low.

‘The retirement living space has a lot of potential,’ said Stephen Miles, Head of Operational Real Estate, CBRE Global Investors. ‘There is strong demand for good quality stock’.

The need for a sense of community is driving this trend, he said: ‘We are more aware now of the problem of isolation and loneliness, which is not limited to one generation’.

Service-led residential offerings have a lot in common, as at the two ends of the spectrum both young students and the elderly value communal areas but also health and fitness facilities.

‘It is not just students who need community spaces, senior citizens also want to interact and enjoy social life,’ said Lars Schnidrig, CEO, Corestate Capital Group. ‘Each generation needs a specific product and the elderly cannot all afford expensive nursing homes’. 

In the UK retirement villages tend to be self-contained and ‘with a Country Club feel,’ while in cities like Paris older people want to be fully integrated in the community and mix with different generations, said Thomas: ‘When it comes to senior living cultural differences play a big part’. 

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