Is London A Good Place To Retire?

By Londonist Last edited 29 months ago
Is London A Good Place To Retire?
Photo by roll the dice from the Londonist Flickr pool

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.

Source: Capital Gains report by Britain Thinks (PDF)

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.

Source: London's Poverty Profile 2015 report (PDF).

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.

Retirement communities

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

Last Updated 02 December 2015


That photo's a bit offensive :-)

Alastair Rae

How many retired peeps can afford to live here even if they wanted? London is hard work and it's mostly younger folk have the energy to enjoy it to the full.

Bee Wyeth

Some of us over 60s who live here can't afford to retire and can't leave London because we can't get work elsewhere.

Richard the Big Bunny

In a word: No. Would I? Yes — if I could.

Anne Wilkinson

Interesting article. My husband and I (both in our 50's) have talked for ages about moving out of London to a smaller town. However, in the last year of so we are starting to think we'd be better off in London. London is so diverse and there's always something to do and it doesn't always cost a fortune. My elderly relatives who live in smaller towns are so bored because there is hardly anything to do in the evenings and hence they are lonely.

Helen West

My husband and I came here 7 years ago, at a time when retiring friends were all talking about heading for Devon, France, Spain, etc. We were stuck in a small town where we'd raised our kids (who had left home by then) and we were bored with the same pubs & restaurants and small-time entertainment offerings. We came to London as a one-year experiment, and are still here. We love the free travel (we've ditched the car), the huge range of things to do and see, the many different volunteering opportunities, good access to medical care, and the sheer diversity of the city. Unfortunately we might not be able to stay much longer because of the cost of renting. We were lucky to get a small flat at a lower-than-usual rent and we have a lovely landlord (the rent hasn't gone up in 7 years and now it's quite a bit below "market"). We hope that we can stay here indefinitely but even a lovely landlord will want to put up the rent eventually, and then we would have to leave London and find somewhere more affordable. That would be a really sad day.


I love living as a retired person in London. Transport is free for the over 60's as are museums and art galleries. I love exploring the city with my camera. All of these things are free. I'm also a member of U3A which thrives in London so loneliness is not a problem. And don't assume London can only be enjoyed by rich older people. I live in sheltered accommodation with my rent partly paid for by housing benefit because my NHS pension is so small. #waspi As someone who was brought up in a rural setting understanding why anyone would want to retire to the countryside is beyond me.


I dream of retiring to the Barbican: amazing cultural activities and services within a short indoor walk.

In my work with visually impaired people I meet dozens of older adults who move out of London to retire, then lose their vision from age related eye disease. They are absolutely lost: vision too poor to drive, terrible public transport, no shops or friends in walking distance, and they can't afford to move back in to London.

London is the place for me.

Roger Manser

You don't mention the NHS in London - great hospitals, easily accessible - just what old retired folk need for heart ops, cancer etc etc. That's important. Nevermind fancy retirement homes in Battersea. Add in City Lit, Bishopsgate Institute, the Overground, Freedom Pass etc plus galleries and museums and lectures - it is just right for "thrivers." .... So what's missing???? Essentially clean air and a good footpath /cycling network.