Peter Girling, Chairman of Campaign supporter Girlings Retirement Rentals, explains how they are supporting their community tenants to avoid loneliness and his support for recently proposed housing reform.

Loneliness is something we can all feel at any stage in our lives, but as we get older many people may feel increasingly isolated and lonely, especially once they retire. A recent report indicated that half of people over the age of 75 are living alone and about one in 10 suffers ‘intense’ loneliness. The report also highlighted the link between loneliness and its impact on people’s health – it has been shown to be worse than obesity and as bad as lifelong smoking.

We wholeheartedly support the Campaign to End Loneliness as we believe the situation could unfortunately get worse as we all live longer – statistics predict one in three people will be over the age of 55 by 2030.

In recent months, TV presenter Esther Rantzen has done her bit to bring the issue of loneliness in old age to the wider public attention with the planned launch of ‘Silverline,’ a free 24-hour helpline for older people.

We know from our tenants’ experiences that living in a retirement community with people of a similar age and often, shared interests, can have many social benefits, improving people’s health and general enjoyment of life and at the same time helping them combat loneliness.

Whilst the majority of purpose built retirement accommodation is designed for independent and active people, there is the added reassurance of support services such as a house/scheme manager and 24 hour Careline, in case of emergency, in each apartment. These services are particularly important to residents as they get older.  Retirement developments also tend to be well positioned – close to transport links, shops and all the amenities people need to access.

Our  tenants tell us that the benefits they obtain from  enjoying the many communal facilities on offer gives them a new lease of life and burgeoning friendships arise from participating in regular social events, including fish and chip suppers. They also tell us they gain peace of mind from having an assured/lifetime tenancy so they know they can stay in their homes as long they choose.

Many retirement developments include a guest room which is available for residents to receive family and friends. We know of several of our own tenants who make use of these guest rooms when they travel to other parts of the country.

Whilst retirement communities may seem to provide many of the answers to the problems of housing older people – there is currently an acute shortage of retirement housing for sale or rent in the UK and very few specialist homes with support services. This is an issue we have been campaigning about for some time.

Just last week, Lord Richard Best announced a proposal to build 100,000 retirement, supported housing and extra care homes a year to tackle the housing shortage and stimulate the economy. As yet, very little has been said about how this ambitious building project will be funded, but it looks promising and it shows that the issues of housing older people is finally being taken seriously.

If Lord Best’s plans come to fruition, we hope to see many more retirement communities across the UK where people can live well in security, comfortable surroundings and enjoy great companionship in later life.