While many dream of retiring to idyllic rural locations, some retirees are choosing instead to spend their retirement in London. Why?
London might not immediately appear to be the location with the most to offer retirees in terms of quality of life. Living costs are high, property is in demand, roads are congested, air quality is poor, population is dense, noise is excessive and crime is feared.
Still, London is one of the cultural and entertainment capitals of the world, offering unrivalled access to the best in culture, services, facilities and medical care. There’s also frequent and convenient public transport offered across the sprawling metropolis, offered free to pensioners.
And while we might assume that pensioners are looking for a quiet and relaxing lifestyle, many of them love London for what it is. Pensioners are more likely to be financially stable than younger people and so have the time and money to better enjoy what the city has to offer.
BritainThinks's 2014 research on Londoners identified 'Thrivers', a group characterised as being older, wealthier and enjoying London much more than their younger counterparts.
Despite this, research by Trust for London (PDF) showed that there is a lower proportion of people aged 50 or over in London compared to the rest of England.
Why shun a rural retirement?
Author Mavis Cheek headed up the Over the Hill campaign to raise awareness of important considerations for retirees to rural areas (PDF), including local services, housing, transport, technology, isolation and loneliness, and has warned retirees off rural life.
While rural locations might offer peace and tranquillity, it's often more difficult to live there than in urban locations. Beyond cultural vibrancy and keeping the mind and body active, the capital could be a better-advised retirement location for those who aren't accustomed to country living.
As for price, countryside property has often been popular with retirees, and the rural property market is increasingly reliant on the 'grey pound' as economic conditions make getting a mortgage harder and harder for young people. While there might be a high barrier to entry, London property has enjoyed considerable rises in value for many years thanks to a shortage of homes, so retirees investing in properties in the capital might see better returns on investment in London property than any retirement fund.
Battersea Place, London’s first luxury lifestyle retirement community opens in 2016, offering luxury facilities in a retirement village where the average home costs £1m. Retirement villages have been popular in other countries around the world for many years, and are starting to catch on in the UK. Homes are constructed around essential community and medical services, allowing retirees to live independently and look after themselves while having top quality assistance on hand if needed.
While Battersea Place may be well out of some people’s price range, retirement villages are an attractive option for those considering a London retirement. They can get out and about to experience London’s cultural diversity while enjoying better security and tranquillity within a private, age-restricted community.
By Elizabeth Grey