Event transcript | 23 Feb 2022

The future of retirement living experiences

In this panel, the UK's biggest industry thinkers talk about the changing face of retirement living and why starting to innovate now is a must, so businesses can move faster, change perceptions and build more varied experiences.


With panellists:

  • Lyndsey Simpson, CEO 55 Redefined
  • Jonty Roots, Founder of Boomer + Beyond
  • Mark Edwards, Group Marketing Director, Affordable Housing and Healthcare Group
  • And moderated by Tom Downing, Tech Director, Freestyle. 

Read the transcript below or register here to watch the full recording.


In this recording/transcript:

1. Over 55s: today's attitudes, needs, beliefs

2. How new kinds of expectations impact retirement providers and their business models

3. Retirement living: the new, the direct and indirect influencers

4. The lengthy, complex buying journey of retirement living

5. How today’s lifestyle services raise the bar with technology expectations

Here we go, transcript starts... NOW.

Tom Downing:

My name is Tom Downing. Today I'm going to be moderating the session, and the talk or the panel itself is all around the future of retirement living. Just a bit of housekeeping. This event will be recorded so we will share this for anyone that's registered before. If you have any questions for the panellists, please do use the Q and A function in Zoom. and hopefully forget sometime towards the end. I'll look through those and I can ask the panellists any questions that you do have. 

Okay, so retirement living itself is approaching a revolution. Really, at an age of 65 we no longer retire at that age. We have a completely different set of experiences and cultures to our parents, especially my parents. I know this firsthand... And the next generation of retirees will push that boundary even further. So if we think of that and what that means, we will no longer be looking for the same services, potentially the same benefits and the types of experiences that today's retirement living residents are happy with. All of that will be changing and has changed for some time. 

So today's topic, I'm going to cover five areas of the future of retirement living. The first one is around the customer, so the changing perceptions and needs of the typical customer. 

Second one, is then going into the retirement providers themselves. So from those changing needs, how has that impacted those around potentially their business models? Are they no longer relevant anymore?

The third one is who is influencing this industry both direct and direct and indirect, influencing the people to make these decisions to move into retirement?

The fourth one is, generally speaking, this is a very long, complex buying journey of when you move into retirement living. So I really want to get into the panellists' expertise in terms of what can be done, potentially to speed that up or to make it easier and better for the customer.

And the fifth one is around technology. So this is specifically around how today's lifestyle services of what we used to, have raised the bar around what we expect as customers around technology. What do we use day in day out?

So firstly, I want to introduce and thank my guests as well. So in today's panel, I had the honour of quizzing the UK's biggest industry thinkers to talk about the changing face of retirement living. And firstly, I want to introduce Lyndsey Simpson. So Lindsey is the founder and CEO of 55 Redefined, and this is an organisation that connects the UK's affluent over 55s with tailored products, services and advice. As I understand spanning jobs, finance, legal and lifestyle, Lyndsey has been recognised as one of the UK's top 35 business women by Management Today, and The Sunday Times. She is listed in the UK's 50 most inspirational female entrepreneurs. So welcome, Lyndsey.

Second, I want to introduce my guest Jonty Roots. So Jonty launched Boomer + Beyond in 2017. And this is a research and branding agency that's dedicated to the burgeoning 55 plus audience. I have down here that its mission is to challenge the preconceptions of old by talking regularly and openly to his audience and feed those insights into your creative process. You also have founded an extensive research platform which has access to over 330,000 pre-registered over 55s that I believe you use to generate insights to inform business strategy, product development and brand. So welcome Jonty.

And last, but by no means least we have Mark Edwards. So Mark is Group Marketing Director for a AHH - Affordable Housing and Healthcare Group, allowing the needs of investors, government and everyday people to create affordable, secure communities primarily around the lifestyle choices of today. Mark has over 15 years experience delivering growth for FTSE 100 companies, startups and global organisations and has expertise in brand product development, digital transformation and culture change. Welcome Mark.

Over 55s: today's attitudes, needs, beliefs

Tom Downing:

So, firstly, let's crack on with the first topic. This first topic, as I said, is all around the customer itself. So what's changed within their attitudes, their needs and their beliefs? Really, if you think about the typical customer these days, we're seeing people embracing, working way beyond their careers, both through their hobbies and simply being involved in passion projects beyond the scope of a career, something that wasn't desirable very long ago. So, Lyndsey, my first question is that... you founded 55 Redefined for those who do not intend to stop when they reach the so called retirement age. So my question is, what paths do your readers take, that's often different from those who seek retirement, of course. 

Lyndsey Simpson:

Thank you, Tom. You're quite right. This is the first generation, so the boomer generation, as we described them, are the first generation that are experiencing the benefits of longer, healthier lives and a change in cultural mindset. You know, divorce is on the increase. Families are increasingly fragmented, and the wealth distribution, particularly in the UK, does centre around those that are aged 50 to 75. So they are more affluent and healthy in their parents could ever wish for. What that has resulted is a complete change in life, really.


"People are wanting just a blended life where they taper down the hours at work and they taper up their lifestyle interests and live that blended life."


And so we commissioned a lot of research into this and paddle out members around what their needs are and around the age of work. So our research commissioned last year showed that over 55% of people wanted to continue to work beyond the age of 65 and over 25% wanted to continue to work into their mid eighties. So this isn't just a little shift of "add a couple of years onto state retirement" this is a mind shift of... ...actually, we think there's a death in the term retirement and what that connotation is anymore because people are not wanting to work and then retire. They're wanting just a blended life where they taper down the hours at work and they taper up their lifestyle interests and live that blended life.

And we see that then carried into quite a number of consumer trends that would impact the housing market. So the number of people living alone age 45 to 75 is massively increased. So the men living alone, age 45 to 75 has increased by 63% since the year 2000. So there's now 4.2 million people in that age group that live alone. If you look at, as you say, parents' generation, they typically were in more traditional families and only then lived alone when they were widowed or bereaved rather than actually separated.

Lyndsey Simpson:

We've also seen a massive increase in second homers. So one of the most popular sections on our site is around splitting half a life between the UK and say, Spain or Portugal, and so often we, you know, we call them "swallows" in our personas. But they're the people that literally, you know, they spend 5-6 months a year in the sun, be that Florida, be that Spain wherever they choose to. And so they choose to then create a lock up and go scenario in the UK, where you know they can come to, you know, they've got security and they can be away from their property for 5-6 months.

Opposite to that, those people in this generation that are looking to remain UK domiciled… is their main residence. The other big changes, they're not downsizing. So again, the typical pattern was you finish work, you know, you pay off your mortgage and then you downsize to then accumulate your assets and we're finding they're not needing to access that asset pool, in the more affluent segments of this age group. And so over 50% of over 55s that now move house, do so to an equivalent size property and not downsize. So if you start to wrap in all of these different dynamics, what you're quite right is that it results in completely different lifestyle needs around security and either that lock up and go or sophisticated CCTV systems to give people comfort on their phone when they are away from their property. It gives people technology needs.

So this is a generation that are the most active online for streaming content and buying, and so excellent WiFi, Sonos streamed into each of the rooms. You know, these are not things that are targeted at millennials anymore. This is perfect for this generation.

And then we will talk about I'm sure, when you talk about influences - marketing. So the biggest issue is the disconnect between what these consumers want to experience in terms of later life living and then how they are sold to and marketed to. And over 90% of this audience feel regularly patronised by the advertising that's presented to them in this age group, and only one in 10 would say that they are inspired by advertising that directly targets them as a consumer. So lots to unpack there. But I thought I'd give you some headlines, Tom, around some of those key areas.

Tom Downing:

That's fascinating. Yeah, there is a lot that you've unpacked in a lot that I wasn't aware of, and it's quite staggering the polar opposite of what you're saying around those different numbers. So there's a lot to carry on through there. So Jonty, then. And within that itself obviously just touched on your research platform. And that seems to be a large part of your agency in terms of how you go about create, getting evidence to inform what you do within business strategy and brand. What would you say that the data is telling you from that platform itself around what are the changing needs?

Jonty Roots:

Yeah, I mean, I think I concur with pretty much everything Lyndsey's just said. So Lyndsey's slightly stole my thunder there. But that's fine. I'm not bitter. 

I think around the...  work requirement I think it's very much, I think, the changes that it's led, often by a choice to continue working so again in recent study. We did at the end of last year that backed up the sort of previous studies we've done for clients... we had about 33% were still in full time work, and this was slightly older than the broad demographic that Lyndsey's talking about. We're looking 70 plus, so this is in the context of more later living communities. So we had about a third… was still in full time work. About 25% were part time work. and in the end, we only had in that cohort, we only had about 26% who were retired in the conventional sense. And this is for a slightly more wealthy demographic, not excessively. So this is a minimum net worth of £400k, 70 plus. And I think we were finding that it's often led by choice.

So the thing that keeps people going in their retirement is very much around maintaining a sense of purpose. So having a reason to get out of bed in the morning. There's all kinds of stories in the press. I think there was one in The Guardian over the weekend where people are, you know, 65 plus are still very much working, and enjoying working because they just want to, you know, they believe it keeps them physically and mentally fit, so the desire to continue working is very much a conscious choice rather than something they have to do. And admittedly, that's for this specific cohort.

So across on a nationally representative level, we ran a study beginning of last year, and we had 67% who would consider themselves retired. So there are the more kind of conventional, you know, they've worked all their lives to retire at a certain point, and they are then retired. And the only reason in that broader demographic that they continued working is financial, so they don't necessarily either have the equity in the property or the pension in place to sustain them in an environment where the costs are only increasing. So I think that that piece around the working life is very much extending. I think if you look at the actual in the context of later living rather than the sort of broader accommodation basis, I think the basic principles actually still ring true. I think people 70 plus is still looking for the core principles of maintaining their independence; is the fundamental point,  keeping control of their lives and actually having a choice around how they live their lives.

Again, in that survey at the end of last year, we had over I think, just under 40%, prioritise maintaining their independence with only 2% at that point, which challenged a lot of preconceptions, citing concern around care as their number one focus. So I think, rather than a drastic change for later living in the formal sense, I think it's more of an evolution into the type of people that are coming in.

So I think moving forward, I think that the changes will be seen more in the communities that are living there. So there will be more culturally diverse, more gender diverse. And there's already players that are coming into the market around that who are reflecting that. So, you know, from a gender... The example who always gets cited is Tonic in central London, who are very much focused on, the LGBT plus community. But even mainstream players, very well established players like... Anchor have already committed to developing LGBT plus communities. Moving forward, I've actually got a, site 100 plus units already in development, and that's partly led by the benefit that the community can bring because that cohort has been recognised, as you know, potentially increasingly lonely in later life, partly because they don't have kids. Massive generalisation, my apologies. But that is something has been sighted by Anchor. 

Then more intergenerational living. I think people are increasingly used to living in a much more,  transparent, sort of fluid culture where you know... Some of my best friends are 80. I've got friends who are 25, and I sit squarely in the middle. Just so we're clear. So I think that expectation to, rather than be sort of siloed, will be challenged moving forward. So I think intergenerational models like the co-hab in the UK or Humanitas over in Holland are particularly pertinent because they try to foster that interaction as much as possible. So Humanitas offer students free accommodation based on the premise that they need to spend a certain number... I think it's 25 or 30 hours a week interacting with their neighbours, their elderly neighbours, which is slightly forcing the issue. But I think it's the reports that come back from it are very... over time, once you get past that, it’s actually quite a natural experience and people benefit, Both sides benefit. You know, the younger generation benefit from the experience and, and you know, insight of their elders and and vice versa. So I think it's that... the evolution will come from being more reflective of where society is now.

Tom Downing:

I do love that example there, and I think it's always saddened me that I used to live in Liverpool years ago. Liverpool's a very, very social place. And where I lived in this house, I knew every single neighbour either side for about 10 doors up, and that was normal. And remember when I left that place. My parents said, you'll never have that again. And so what do you mean? I come back now, And I know the neighbour's name, but no one speaks to anyone another. And I think if you go back to then my parents' generation, that was the norm, and that's and that we need that social connection right, to be one of the core principles of our purpose. And I think that's what slowly been lost along the way.

How new kinds of expectations impact retirement providers and their business models

Tom Downing:

Okay, let's move on to our next topic that comes into the actual providers themselves. Jonty. You mentioned a few new ones are coming up that are trying to tackle this, but Mark I want to ask you on this. So if we think around the UK, the larger retirement providers that have been around for a very long time now. What do you se needed to change with those to be able to adapt to these needs that we've just been talking about for the last 10 minutes? And what? How has that influenced AHH in terms of how it's adapting its business itself?

Mark Edwards:

Thanks. So, yeah, well, big question. I think it's already an evolution. That's the word picked up earlier from Jonty. And if you look at the products that were being provided into the marketplace 10... 15... years ago, they're already very much out of date with today's expectations. And that's across the spectrum we see of potential homeowners and within our marketplace. Although we have a product called Retirement Living, which is actually an almost unhelpful label to put on it, we have got quite a diverse customer mix from sort of 55 to 95 and that makes it really interesting to sort of focus on what the needs are of that audience and then trying to understand what some of the wants are of that audience. And I think in terms of the evolution we start in a place we're focusing on needs.

And when I look at some of our older demographics, it is quite a need to do from purchase that have been an event in life that triggered a need to reassess and to make a move to improve their life circumstances. For that demographic, it's very rarely about a property purchase. The property purchase is the enabler to changing a lifestyle and to making an improvement in life. The thing that we are focusing on, and I think most providers have moved to, both in terms of their communication and reality in terms of what they build, is focusing on creating communities. So rather than trying to provide retirement living housing,  which of course is future proof and takes care of your needs in later life. And one of my colleagues already mentioned that even when people come to see us at 85 They don't want to thinking about the next five years. They really don't want to be thinking about that point of time when they're going to need care. They're very much focused on today. 

So I think there's there's an evolution towards communities and creating communities that have purpose and that very much empower the people that live there to own that community, to make it a community that meets their needs, that they play an active role in that they're volunteering and that they feel that it's for them so that they own it rather it's done to them. This isn't an institution and then almost comes back to sort of the first point alluded to where this product called retirement living as a label is, for my perspective and probably from the industry perspective, quite hard to live with because it does have negative connotations and the people I meet both as customers and as potential business partners.

And they're all in a similar space where there's a negative perception of what retirement living is. You know, people think... even my generation and younger... of retirement homes and people sat around maybe in high back chairs, blankets on knees with little purpose in life. And where we are now is even our older adults. Even the post-war generation still have an expectation and sense of the need for purpose and want a community and want to do something valuable every day. When we get into the younger demographic that are coming into our communities... Their needs are quite different. This is a very conscious lifestyle decision about how they want to be able to enjoy this period of time from 55 onwards and again We see quite a large amount of people still working.

Quite a few of those people, of course, were operating right in the middle of the market space here. We're operating with homeowners of very average incomes, modest wealth, sort of the general population, I would say, and they will have financial concerns and needs as well that we're trying to adapt how we provide these products to enable the younger generation, sort of generation X - baby boomer divide. When we get to that point, probably 5, 10 years from now, they are going to be financially constrained, they will not have the benefits of the final salary pension schemes that may be today 60-65 year olds have. Hopefully, they have been. But we know many, many people haven't been saving for retirement, so they're going to be looking to a future where they're going to need to continue working.

So that's gonna have an impact on their lifestyle and housing choices. And when they want to start easing down the amount of work they do, they're going to have some quite severe financial challenges. So how do they start to lock some of the wealth that they may have generated or probably have generated in their current housing? So I think there's there's models there about How do you provide a retirement living community that is affordable today and will be affordable for those generations that coming through over the next 5 to 10 years? Because the existing model in the mainstream of open market housing, considerable premiums to current housing stock will just not be affordable. It won't be sustainable.

Tom Downing:

Okay, and if these issues you described from, not the generation is today, but as you said, the younger generation when they get to retirement age. If this isn't dealt with what's going to be the repercussions within the industry?

Mark Edwards:

Well, I think you have a product that is increasingly niche and will only appeal to, unfortunately, a diminishing audience of elderly and needy people. And, of course, as those communities age you need to bring, you need to bring younger people into those communities. You need to have a balance. You need to keep it vibrant and energetic and purposeful. But I think unfortunately, if we're not able to do that, people don't change how they make products accessible, sort of financially accessible. Then those communities will dwindle and the product will become less relevant.

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Retirement living: the new, the direct and indirect influencers 

Tom Downing: 

Okay, let's move on to our third topic, then the influencer. So in today's decision, influencers such as the obvious ones, the children of those that are reaching retirement, they are essentially tomorrow's customers, as my panellists have been discussing. But it's not, from our perspective, an influencer isn't just a person and influencers are a lot bigger than that around culture, trends, that will eventually become more powerful to influence people into this way of living, whatever it was going to look like. So will we, as children still be the main influencer? Lyndsey, this is a question for you to start with. What have you learned from 55 Redefined regarding buying behaviours? And who and what influences decision making during retirement living choices?

Lyndsey Simpson: 

Well, I think the first thing is it depends who you're describing as the children. Because we're now faced with four generations living alongside each other. So the people were talking about in their fifties and sixties right now, as perhaps this target audience are actually a sandwich generation between children in their forties, grandchildren and elderly parents in their eighties and nineties. So they see themselves as the children, making the decisions for their elderly parents that are in their eighties plus and living forward. We see very little influence from that group, them going to their children that are in their thirties and forties around these decisions because they feel perfectly capable about making them themselves. So I think we need to be careful when we use reference children because you've got three layers of children in this kind of buying chain at the moment. 


“Nobody has taken the time and attention to gather the views of this over 55 digital audience.”


And what is interesting is you know when we set out in 55 Redefined to target this audience in a very different way and more. You know, the word we use is cool, which, when you say obviously then doesn't sound cool. But it's one of those things where you know they're so used to just being sold a giant slipper or a funeral plan or a stair aid and stereotype after stereotype. But when you do shock them with imagery and language that is just, you know, relevant, you got to remember that Boy George is like 63. You know, Helena Bonham Carter is 55. You know, not everybody is Helen Mirren. You know who's in their late seventies when you ask for women who is in their fifties. And so what we found was that nobody has taken the time and attention to gather the views of this digital audience. So they homogenised over 55 into... they all like cruises, and they all need money saving tips, and they all are suffering from loneliness, you know, is this big homogeneous group. We wouldn't do that with any other age group below 55 so we've started to get insight from that around social media platforms.

Over 55s and social media

Lyndsey Simpson: 

So we were told to last year, you know, your audience will all be on Facebook. Well, turns out they're not. They're all on Instagram, actually. So our highest engagement, our highest level of membership sign up all comes from Instagram. And yet 12 months ago, if you'd have asked any market expert in the UK You know where to gather a digital over 55 audience, they would never have told you to go to Instagram. And then when we asked this age group, what are the top three things you know, our top three people that you go to to influence your buying decisions. Children do not feature in the top three, so Number one is friends and family recommendations, but predominantly friends. So peer level friends, same same age group, same affluence category.

The second one is TV and so really they do take influences and decisions from TV and documentaries and advice programmes, and the third one is print media. So magazines and newspapers and they will consume the FT They will consume The Times, The Guardian for insight and an independent view. But they score way higher than actually them going to their children as a reference point. So as I say, I think we've still got a lot to learn. I think you know, people like Jonty And I, you know, that are trying to garner and gather for the very first time this first party research and data and insight will help all of the providers out there to start to make their services a bit more appropriate. 

But right now we are waving a stick in the Royal Albert Hall in terms of the knowledge that we actually know about them because nobody's ever really asked them.

Tom Downing: 

Very, very true. Okay, so Jonty carrying on from that, what would you say specifically are the triggers that influence this audience? I want to specifically try to talk about culture in terms of so we've talked around channels, people, friends, family. What's happening in a culture that was different 10, 20 years ago to today, that's triggering people in different ways to get into this.

Jonty Roots: 

I think I mean, carrying on from what Lyndsey was saying, I think there's a couple of things in there. I think the grouping of 55 plus into what one homogenous group is utter madness because it's the equivalent If you think of a 55 and a 85 year old, it's the equivalent of a 20 year old and a 50 year old. So you know, the principle that sits behind that is just ultimately flawed.

But also, actually, when you get to that point grouping by age, irrespective of where they sit and how big that group is... We've just done a study around a rental product in North London, and, in that group we were 60 to 75 and in that group, reflective of everything else, we were getting very lively 75 year olds who are still out mountaineering and doing all kinds of stuff and all of their friends they love the idea of the concept because it's very literally just a standard intergenerational community just happens to be a rental product. And then, by the same token, we had sixty year olds who had pretty much given up. They had retired early and it's given up, and when it didn't have that energy or that zest of life, so I think that's that's one point. Challenging slightly, but probably not challenging to Lyndsey - looking at the social media influence we're still finding I agree, Facebook was heralded as you know, this this demographics, everybody flocked to it, but from So we ran 70 plus again, end of last year. And for that demographic, specifically and actually... We had a minimum net worth £500k London and home counties. and for that demographic, we had,  just over the half, we're on social media of some kind, and of that half, 93% were on Facebook. and that came back from a... that reflected a net rep study for that, 70 plus group that we that we did earlier in the year. So I think Facebook is still a consideration, but I think it's more the fact that a significant portion are very much on social, to an extent, irrespective of the platform. And Instagram was the second choice in that one as well. So, that's a key point.

Tech brands as influencers for marketing to over 55s

Jonty Roots: 

I think the other thing is the assumptions around the brands that people aspire to or, take guidance from or take influence from or respect, even. A number of the studies we ran, and we sort of popped in and just quite a broad, unprompted, question around brands that people admire with the assumption again for the slightly older demographic that it's going to be M&S And you know, the safe standard brands... It's not. It's the tech brands primarily. So Apple always features very highly but broader sort of more-mass market appeal, like Samsung come in as well. So Sonos you mentioned earlier is really significant. And I think things like that are looking specifically again at later living communities. The assumption around smart home tech is the, you know, this audience, this cohort aren't going to be interested in it, but again, the responses that we're having a lot of people already have it.

And when you explain potentially what it can do the sort of opening and closing the curtains or turning the lights on and off, people genuinely get really excited about. We did a study up in Fulham in a show suite, and people were, you know, a little bit placid about it before coming in to see it and when they saw the curtains in action without exception, everybody got really fired up and really excited about it. So it's partly about their understanding of what the capabilities and how things have moved on. But it's also genuinely challenge the preconceptions around how digitally aware and how much digital appetite there is for for these types of products. I don't know if that answers the question.

Tom Downing: 

It does. And obviously I wanted to try to uncover all of the different kinds. What is change? What's impacting and changing this this way in which people try to move into this lifestyle. I think, on the technology side within that demographic, Yeah, I do know that first hand. My mom and dad - their home is fully set up smart wise. And they did. They bought all of it. But then you still get the question and the ringing on Sunday night saying, Tom, can you come round and set up, please? But once they set up, it's the accessible element of it and that it's just natural. I think that's the evolution 10 years ago. Yes, we do a lot of what… we're talking around in tech wise, but you have to know what you were doing and it was complex and it broke a lot. I think now it's so accessible. You just talk and things happen. That's why people are warming to it. More so.

The lengthy, complex buying journey of retirement living

Tom Downing: 

Okay, in the interest of time, let's just move on to the next topic. So this 3rd... 4th topic, is I want to dive into this lengthy, complex buying journey. So we've talked about the influences in terms of what is pushing people into this, but then when they want to make that decision, the choosing, financing, buying, moving, and then eventually living in later living is very complex. And there's lots of different reasons for that. So, Mark, I just wanted to ask you the question really over what needs to change? Not just within business, but also within policies as well to potentially make this process quicker and smoother and easier for the customer.

Mark Edwards:

Thanks, Tom. I think it's your right to say it's a long journey. We see it today often been a 2 to 3 year decision making process to move into retirement. And that's just the end of it that we see. Obviously there's a whole up funnel part of that exploration journey, that decision making that we don't get to see. So it is a lengthy process, and I think I mentioned already, part of the problem is being able to find the solution.

So as a consumer in this space, you might... your needs and they're massively varied... I mean, everyone has already said that there's so many different profiles of customer within this broad mix, and their needs are all different. But they will have an unfulfilled need, otherwise they wouldn't be in a marketplace. But where do you look to find the solution for that unfulfilled need? If you have needs around loneliness and isolation, where do you look if you have needs around, affording enabling a better lifestyle in retirement? Where do you look?

If you have needs around... really wanted to have a sense of purpose, really wanted to go and explore and see the world, and have an appropriate home. Where do you look? And I think that's part... That's kind of the start of the problem. So trying to find new ways of communicating what the available products are, trying to break out, maybe from the silo of retirement living to create a range of products that meet all of those different needs.

And that's something we've been looking at about how do you get up the funnel away from the housing product to talk about the actual live problem that you're solving? Then you get into the journey itself, which is a complex journey because it involves a personal property, which for most people on this call, I'm sure purchased at least one property. It is painful. It is slow. It is cumbersome. It's fraught with risk. Many of our customers will be moving for the first time in 30 to 40 years.

New expectations for retirement living: conveyancing in a couple of clicks

Mark Edwards:

Frankly, we'll have no idea where all of the essential paperwork you need and the mortgage entitled deeds are or any of that within our convoluted conveyancing process that... you know... despite the best will of the Department of Justice, no one's been able to transform yet. No one's been able to digitally transform the process of purchasing a property. And that feels like not just for this sector, but for the whole of the housing market in the UK, a massive enabler that is seriously overdue. So trying to find ways of making the purchase journey easy and we're talking about influencing a moment ago, and I think in my head that's one of the massive influences on all of our lives is how how common tasks have become so much easier as we become more and more in time with digital technologies, and our expectation now is that everything should be done within a couple of clicks.

You know, I think we've all got Amazon to thank for that in a large way. And for people looking for a housing solution, for people looking to solve a live problem, it isn't unfortunately easy today. It is not just a few clicks. It's a very convoluted processes many, with many different moving parts, particularly if you start adding finances into the equation. So I think for me, the solution is sort of standing back and think about what is the best service. What is the best customer experience that people have, which is usually digitally enabled, very few clips, very intuitive. And it's personalised, contextualised as you go through that journey. So for me that's the vision of where we need to get to so that you can find the right solution for your problem. And then it is an easy process to get from A to B rather than something at the moment that throws up so many challenges, and I think probably nothing brings it home more than I think. I think the stats will pertain about 33% of people over 65 want to move home, but only 3% do because of all those barriers.

Tom Downing: 

If you could wave a magic wand and fix those... the things that currently are out of your, and all of our control... What is the main thing that you would do?

Mark Edwards: 

Yeah. The top of my head is kind of around, making it easy for people to buy and to afford the solution that's right for them. But that's where I would want to focus. That I think solved the problem for most people and it enables the most people to have a better life.

Lyndsey Simpson: 

Can I chip in a view on that, Tom?

Tom Downing: 

Of course. 

Lyndsey Simpson: 

So we've got quite a bit of studies around this ourselves, and I think there's a couple of things they're both around access to finance, but also around our obsession with owning property, which is a UK thing. You don't go to Spain and see people owning their properties. They rent for life. and so when we talk to people, I mean, rent is on the increase for this demographic. It's doubled the number of people that have been renting since the year 2000, and that trend is continuing.

Creating more accessible retirement living products

Lyndsey Simpson:

And when we asked them what concerns them about renting in later life, the fear is that the landlord is just going to pull the rug out from underneath them and force them to move. So the only reason they don't rent is not because they think it's a better financial option for them. Much easier, much simpler. They can then budget. You know, it's the fact that they want to know that maybe this is their last property and they don't have certainty of how long they're going to be in that property. But they don't want to be forced to exit. And so having long life rental agreements rather than this fear, I think, would be a way of creating far more accessible products and also creating a lot more mobility amongst this age group.

Combatting financial discrimination for over 55s buying property

Lyndsey Simpson:

Where we fit in around access to traditional finance is financial services has a specific carve out in the age discrimination act, allowing them to discriminate on the basis of age. What they don't have to do is be transparent around that discrimination. So one of the biggest issues, as Mark says, is how complicated and time consuming it is because if you're wanting a mortgage, even, say, a retirement interest only mortgage, you might have to apply to five different providers over months at a time. Do all of the due diligence to then be declined because of your age or your profile, because none of those lenders are prepared to be upfront about their credit lending policy. And so we find that actually brokering so actually, having a broker in place between the lenders again is a way of just simplifying, taking the hassle away, going to a panel of lenders rather than the consumer themselves, having to navigate the myriad online.


“The answer isn’t to get one quarter of the population to move, the answer is to adapt a lot of those homes, so people can remain independent in the houses that they currently are living in.”


And then the final thing. I would just say about this kind of whole market, really. We seem to just be talking about moving house and buying new or buying an appropriate property. Only 9% of homes in the UK feature the four things that make them fully accessible, which is a downstairs toilet, which is a wide doorway, which is a flush threshold and level access.

And so I do think the industry needs to come together, both with finance solutions and providers to adapt the homes that people are already living in. …It isn’t the answer to get one quarter of our population to move home in this period of time, the answer will actually be to adapt a lot of those people to remain independent in the houses that they currently are living in. But that type of support, at the moment again is full of cliches full of terrible handrails and disabled access. That doesn't feel modern, and it doesn't feel flexible living. It feels like I'm adjusting my home to be an elderly care home environment, and I think what we're doing around new properties in this space around late living needs to be applied to our current housing stock in a more modern way. 

The real image of living after 55s

Tom Downing:

Jonty. Okay, taking that point that you just talked around around the way in which brands, mainstream brands are categorising this audience in terms of what they feel that they need to push this image to them. What would you say specifically from a brand point of view needs to be done, and if you have any examples where it is completely relevant of how they are communicating, not talking about channels, was talking about purely from a proposition, more. What do brands need to do to be relevant and get rid of this cliche?

Jonty Roots:

Yeah, that is a... It's a difficult question to answer because there's so many people who are doing it so badly. I think some of the new players again just kind of focus on later living. Some of the new players coming into the last living market are actually approaching it from the right perspective. It's no longer about running hand in hand along the beach when you're showing pictures of people.

It's actually interacting with the kids or physically doing stuff, you know, doing their hobby, still, basically doing the things that anybody in society does. So it's about not putting them in that box of this is how older people live. It's just they're just people, so they're still doing the things that you and I do every day, so there's an element of that. I think when it's best done is when it doesn't... you almost don't notice it.

So people like from a fashion perspective, people like I never know how to pronounce it. But Arket, or Arket! Do it pretty well in that they just have a very broad demographic in the photography that they use for their models so they could have an older gent, but not necessarily beautifully, The classic. If it's an older game, he has to be super stylish with a handlebar moustache. Tweet with an image of life.

It's just, it's just my dad who's wearing cool clothes. My dad doesn't wear cool clothes, but it's just a regular guy in the same way. It's a regular 30 year old or a regular 25 year old, so they kind of... I think when it's done most effectively is when it doesn't feel like… right, we are now specifically advertising to an older demographic. It's just we have these clothes that are appropriate to men for argument's sake, and through that, they feature a much broader mix in their photography. I mean, obviously, M&S do it quite overtly, and it feels like, I can't remember the lady's name, but it feels like the model that's in there is literally stuck. It's like tokenism, whereas again someone like Arket do it seamlessly without it being really apparent.

The lengthy, complex buying journey of retirement living

How today’s lifestyle services raise the bar with technology expectations

Tom Downing:

Okay, right. Got just over 10 minutes left. And I just wanna get into my last topic, which is around the technology expectation. So technology we have talked about in previous topics. But technology has rapidly disrupted this space both directly and indirectly, as my panellists have talked around. What this audience and will continue to are now used to in what they use both channels devices, technology in in their lifestyle choices thinking of…

I talked about how they manage their finances, how they consume entertainment, how they travel, how they communicate with friends and family, that it's becoming more and more relevant and more and more widespread in terms of the technology that they use. So Lyndsey I wanted to go to you first around this. So with 55 Redefined, it's all around extending your lifestyle choices and not stopping them. How has technology expectations changed for this audience? And what would you say are the top four or five normal things for them now?


“Streaming has opened up a whole world of technology options for later living.”


Lyndsey Simpson:

Well, one thing that I think is the real upside of what's come out of the pandemic. There's not many upsides, the pandemic. One of them is the rate of technology change. So the accessibility that that was given to this generation to come back to work, to volunteer. You know, we've got volunteering people in their seventies and eighties that wanted to volunteer, but you didn't want the physical aspects of it can now volunteer and read to children via Zoom, you know, and they get an interaction, they come back and that would these things just would not have happened pre the pandemic.

You know, other than a few select businesses that I was working with, that we're on Teams and that infrastructure, you know, it wasn't mainstream as it is. And we're all sat here today, you know, on video calls. So that streaming has opened up a whole world of technology options for later living.

The biggest one is health and wellbeing, actually. So if we were to generalise around previous generations, grandparents, generations later life was more about, you know, you would look at health around fixing illness. You'd be considering your options once you've had a heart attack or once you've obtained a disability or something of that ilk, whereas this generation are actually super fit. You know, there is a disconnect between rich and poor, so affluence has a massive impact on health and longevity of life in this age group.

But what we're seeing is that they're wanting access to physios, to online streaming, to fitness apps, to nutrition apps, and they're wanting that to kind of blend with their life. And I think again, you know, finding a way of doing that within a community, as a physical community and bringing people together rather than always being, you know, we're going down the village hall type scenario will be fantastic.

Retirement living is all about enabling online communities

Lyndsey Simpson:

And then the third thing that we see the most often we get the most requests for. So we haven't solved it yet. But give us six months, we'll be all over. It is around online community. And it is online. So when we've been describing community here, we've been talking about the physical community, neighbours, infrastructure, communities, whereas what we're being asked for is to create a digital community of like minded people. So who are the people that are interested in books? Who are their interests that are interested in the next release at the National Gallery. Who are the people that are interested in doing a crazy adventure tour of Iceland and and they're wanting to be able to have threads and streams and conversations and put out to that audience. You know, you talked about influencing earlier time, and it's not just about going to my friend who I've known for 20 years. It's about going to a peer group in a community digitally that I feel that people like me and going. Has anyone been here? What do you all think? And so I think the providers need to get a lot smarter about infiltrating and owning some of those conversations in these digital communities.

You know, a great app for at the moment that's gone an absolute storm is Next Door, you know. So that obviously went crazy in the pandemic that has brought digital communities together... Is anybody you know... Obviously it's got you know, the the odd, crazy things that you get with a local community, and it goes a bit neighbourhood watch-ey. But there's some beautiful things around that that create connected people that are one street apart that suddenly have a really shared interest that they would never have found.

So for me, it is around, you know, accessibility of work. So the fact that people can now and volunteering, which is all going to be through live streaming. The accessibility, fitness and wellbeing via virtual engagement and the accessibility of digital communities and how you know the providers in this space get involved in those conversations as they're happening in a live state rather than broadcast advertising. You know, waiting for somebody to see that effort.

Tom Downing:

Mark, what's your view on digital communities? So you've talked before the last topic around  how you want to get them through to living. But once they are living there itself, putting aside physical communities, what's your view on what AHH see, and are trying to do to build this digital community need?

Mark Edwards:

I'm really pleased that it echoes a lot of what Lyndsey has said, which is very reassuring. It's strange. I think a few things have definitely changed during the pandemic, and nothing more so than the want, the desire, the need for communication. And when you dive into that when we get to talking to our customers, it's not us talking to them. It's not us communicating with them. It's us to be able to connect those communities together and that goes across not just a single site, a single development that might have multiple different types of housing. But actually different communities that sit within our Platinum Skies umbrella being able to connect together because, of course, what they realise is that there are like minded groups of people that will have common interests and common passions and purposes.

So that's a massive desire and something we're trying to enable using existing technology today, because it's all they're also thinking about in the future. How we do that better, how we enable our communities to connect with each other in a way that doesn't lead to any sort of interference or moderation from above.

And also we are doing a programme where we're bringing in champions into our business and their wellbeing champions so physical, emotional, mental, financial wellbeing and with the purpose that these champions can use technology and be there in person but use technology to communicate with the broader cohort, everybody that lives at Platinum Skies, and beyond that, how do we then use technology to reach out into the local communities because our purpose to improve lives in later life doesn't just sit with those that might be lucky enough to be able to live in one of our homes.


“Technology will be key to bringing in our champions into the business to inspire, to motivate, to help give people purpose, passion.”


I think all of that is about using technology to enable it, and I think there is a lot of existing technology out there. Unfortunately, there isn't one platform that everybody uses, which makes it slightly more challenging. You know, there's a definite reluctance to try and create your own or new platforms because you don't want to be left with the legacy of carrying an infrastructure, with providing that platform. So we're trying to find ways of today easily connecting people and then bring in our champions into the business to inspire, to motivate, to help give people purpose, passion, give people new interests, make them ultimately happier and healthier. And technology will be key to doing that for us because one person can't get around thousands and thousands of homes.

Is retirement living still relevant?

Tom Downing:

Okay, so that leads me nicely onto wrapping up for today. So I think what I'm hearing from you three really is saying that this is all pinning on the point that the word retirement is no longer suitable or it's unsuitable for a significant population. And that's only going to get more and more irrelevant. Really, as a definition as a word, What does it actually mean? And so I think, really, could we agree that for many, the idea of living during later life is not defined potentially by this word? I'd like to wrap up and ask each of you What do you understand? What do you understand currently around the word retirement? What does it mean to you and what needs to change? Because I think a lot of what we talked around is the perception of what that and the connotations of what that word means is so far away from the reality of how these people are living right now. So, Jonty, I'll firstly go to you, and what do you say retirement means?


“Retirement is an opportunity to live how I want to live.”


Jonty Roots:

On one level, it feels like the… I think in contrast to the States... retirement in the States, means the beginning of a new chapter. Whereas in the UK, it means the beginning of the end. And I think we need to get more towards that. This is an opportunity to live how I want to live. You know, whether that is still working part time, working, volunteering, whatever it is, it's taking control and and just getting in the mindset that it doesn't have to be... That's it. It's the potential that you can still keep living a life. Technology, health and wellbeing has evolved so much that there's so much more infrastructure there to support you that it should be the beginning of a new chapter.


“Replace retirement with flexibility.”


Tom Downing:

OK, Lyndsey?

Lyndsey Simpson:

Personally, I think the word needs to go. I don't think it has any relevance. It was coined in a post-war society to define the average of six years of life when you retired, you took your state pension and then you died, quite frankly. So you can't encapsulate a 30 year plus period with that word.

For me, I'd like to replace to be flexibility. I'd like to us to start talking about later life flexible living, you know, and have, because that's what everybody is talking to us about. They want flexible lives, flexible homes, more of that less of that later life learning, you know. And so if we can get rid of this term, actually will also help get rid of quite a bit of ageism that occurs in the workplace, where we keep making an expectation that somebody wants to retire at certain age. Whereas if we just accept that everybody's got a bit of flexibility and they might drop down to four days a week or three days a week and do that over a 10 year timeframe rather than you work for 30 years, the switch goes off and then you retire, you know, then I think that's when we start to really move cultural practices forward.


“It’s about living in wonderful homes that are easy to look after and maintain, and people have the freedom and flexibility to live the life they want to lead.”


Tom Downing:

And finally, Mark, what would you say the word means? 

Mark Edwards:

Yeah, at the moment it does have you mentioned earlier those negative connotations. Just if you define the words "to retire" it means to almost withdraw, and that's so much not what our current, today that's not what our current customers want or need. It is just a different phase of life. And when I go to one of our communities, maybe on a Friday when they've got happy hour, and it's full of joy and happiness, and they're living in wonderful homes that are easy to look after and maintain, and they have the freedom and flexibility to live the life they want to lead... I'm a few years off yet, but I certainly look forward to that. 

Tom Downing:

Okay, just before we wrap up, there is one question I just want to go to, and I think I believe it's to you. Mark, this is Nick. Nick says. What are your thoughts on alining sector Terminology to Arco's IRC Integrated Retirement Community?

Mark Edwards:

Yeah, ARCO've been pushing out recently this idea that I think commonly driven by Extra Care that you have this sort of end to end community. Maybe it's sort of like a campus model where you can come into a community at 55 and stay within that community and maybe move into slightly different accommodation and getting different levels of support as you go through. So I understand the label for the type of product. I'm not sure it's overly helpful for those that are looking for a solution. It's my opinion.

Tom Downing:

Okay, let's wrap up then. So I want to say, first of all and massive thank you to my guests, Mark, Jonty and Lyndsey. Thank you for everybody that's joined us this morning. We will be sending this out as a recording. As I said at the start, and keep posted because we're announcing new topic soon. So if you're registered, you will get those alerts. Thank you. And have a good day. Take care! 


Transcript ends here.

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