Say goodbye to the granny flat

Serviced apartments aren't just for yuppies - pensioners needing an easy-care home are snapping them up, too
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The Independent Online

Forget the Yuppies and Dinkies of the Eighties and Nineties. The post-modern homeowner is an Aricap - an asset-rich-and-cash-poor over-60 who prefers to live in apartments rather than suburban semis.

Forget the Yuppies and Dinkies of the Eighties and Nineties. The post-modern homeowner is an Aricap - an asset-rich-and-cash-poor over-60 who prefers to live in apartments rather than suburban semis.

We're always banging on about the post-war baby boom, but it's the pre-war baby boom we should really be talking about. Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show the number of over-75s will increase by almost 50 per cent in the next 20 or so years. So why do we want to move when we get to a certain age? The key reason is the rise in property values. Many older people with no mortgages find themselves in family homes worth £500,000 or more - with high maintenance costs and too much space.

Faced with poorish pensions and unlimited leisure, the over-60s want to keep their ember years as hassle-free as possible. So they release some of the equity in their homes and go on six-month Caribbean cruises, buy cars, gift money to their children, help with the grandchildren's education or set themselves up with regular incomes to offset those ailing pensions. Or else they join a new generation of Mobile Pensioners, selling up and moving to serviced apartments.

Giles Crease of Retirement Homesearch says: "The over-60s are getting more active and enterprising, sometimes working into their 70s and generally leading independent lives. They don't want to go into an old people's care or rest home unless they have to. Getting their own apartment gives them the flexibility they crave."

The other advantage of making that late move is having your own serviced apartment with lower overheads than your four- or five-bedroom house, good security with entry phones and CCTV cameras and the reassurance of a 24-hour house manager to help out in emergencies. You can even keep up with your hobbies - a group of residents at a Bournemouth development recently won all the gardening honours in a Gardens in Bloom contest.

Retirements flats range from £40,000 for a one-bed apartment to £300,000 for a top-of-the-range three-bedroom one. Not surprisingly, prices have kept up with the recent housing boom, the average one-bed flat costing around £100,000, compared with £71,000 18 months ago. Mortgage broker Bill Harding of William Harding Mortgage Services, who is moving his mother into a St Albans apartment a mile from his home, says: "This is the perfect option for the whole family. My mother still thinks she's 65 so she doesn't want to move to an old people's home and my wife and I can drop in and see her every day."

Like any other housing market, location plays a key role. Some of the most popular retirement spots are Devon and Cornwall, the south coast resorts, Birmingham and Harrogate.

Family and friends also influence people's choices. Anne French of McCarthy & French, the retirement home developers, says: "Many older people who have been widowed move to cities where their sons or daughters happen to be working, while many of those who have lived in an area for a long time and have local friends and interests often move just a few streets away."

Winifred Halden, 83, did just that when she found the upkeep of her three-bedroom house in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire too much and moved to a one-bedroom serviced flat in the town. "I couldn't bear to see it go to wrack and ruin, so I decided to downsize," she says.

One couple actually beat their son to it when they moved from Luton to Torquay recently. Marion and George Wheeler's son, Martin, found them a one-bedroom flat on the Net, made an offer for £152,000, and the couple were set up in their new home soon afterwards. Their son, meanwhile, moved to nearby Paignton a couple of weeks later. "The bungalow we were living in was too big for our needs, and this has given us a chance to see our grandchildren as often as we like," says Mrs Wheeler, 79.

Anne French comments: "The typical resident is a 74-year-old widow, as there are slightly more women than men in retirement apartments, and they outlive them by about three years." The oldest Mobile Pensioner of them all, however, is a woman of 105 who lives in Herne Bay, Kent.

Retirement Homesearch: 0870 600 5560, www.retirementhomeearch.co.uk;
Elderly Accommodation Counsel: 020-7820 1343, www.housingcare.org www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk

Some readers may have had difficulty in accessing the website of PXS, the chain-break service mentioned in last week's column. If you would like to contact them, you can call them on 020-7761 9410

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