Redefining retirement housing for the over 55s

Traditionally, society has (generally) considered age 65 to be the time to consider retirement and for people to embrace a more relaxed, less active, and slower pace of life should they be in a position to do so.

However, times are now rapidly changing, and this attitude is becoming more and more out of date, especially in relation to health, wellbeing, lifestyles and life expectancy.

In 2018, there were 11.9m GB residents aged 65 years+ making up 18% of the population, but looking ahead to the middle of the century, this is now expected to be in the region of 17.7m (almost 25% of the population). Similarly, people aged 85 years plus are the fastest growing group with 3.6 million people anticipated by 2050 (5% of the population and almost double that of 2018).[1]

The ‘marker’ for older age is constantly shifting in a positive, upward direction, and therefore, so has the relationship with where people live, how they live and the homes they occupy.

More people are set to rent in later life than own their home, meaning that it is crucial that age-friendly communities that truly represent their tenants, embrace modern lifestyles, encourage independence, and enable people to live (and age) well, exist.

Bernicia Living is doing exactly that. As part of North East housing association, Bernicia Group, the rental property division for tenants over 55 has recently rebranded to better reflect its values and vision, and is now actively working towards reinventing and refocusing the general perception (and misconception) of ‘older’ or ‘retirement living’.

This includes adopting more captive, positive and modern language, building homes that offer an enriched, living environment, delivering services and activities across all developments that encourage social inclusion as well as greater independence, creating and upholding close-knit neighbourhoods through community investment, and working closely with collaborative partners and tenants to anticipate, design for and deliver on future needs, trends and society’s requirements.

Paul White, Head of Bernicia Living, explained, “Retirement living no longer means old and inactive. In fact, it’s very much the opposite, and for many people of that age, they’re living their best lives. Yet often, the idea and image of retirement living is completely out of sync with reality, especially regarding social housing, and that’s why we’re proactively changing the narrative around this.

“This can be something as simple as no longer referring to housing staff as wardens, no longer assuming older people only engage in stereotypical social activities, and no longer having a one size fits all approach.

[1]  Living longer: is age 70 the new age 65? – Office for National Statistics (

“By diversifying our service delivery, we can ensure that we reach and understand as many tenants as possible and provide total inclusivity. Our industry needs to change the language typically used so that it is a lot more positive and reflective of the lifestyles being lived.

“Bernicia Living is enabling tenants to live fully independent lives in our bungalows and apartments whilst also putting services in place to combat wider issues like loneliness and social exclusion. This reflects in the outdoor spaces we create and the specific support we can provide an individual, but it’s the small changes that make huge differences too and help our tenants feel that they love both where and how they live.

“In addition, we’re also talking with organisations who are at the very forefront of innovation in ageing and advising on how to futureproof for changing demographics. Again, this insight is key to realigning society’s attitudes, and helps providers like ourselves to accommodate and deliver the best possible homes for a growing, over 55’s audience.”

Bernicia Living offers age-exclusive communities and has a variety of developments from Berwick upon Tweed in North Northumberland, down to Hartlepool Marina and County Durham. All offer high quality one or two bedroom bungalows and/or apartments for rent.

This also builds on evidence to support healthy and active ageing in communities that enable residents to shape the place they live. This includes transport links, outdoor areas, volunteering and employment opportunities, and leisure and community services.[1]

[1] UK Network of Age-friendly Communities | Centre for Ageing Better (