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Retirement living fills gap left by care home acuity, says Santhem

By freelance journalist Eleanore Robinson
Hallmark Care Homes has become the latest care home operator to move into the retirement living space with its offshoot Santhem Residences.

Launching its first development in Shenfield, Essex, Hallmark joins a number of care home operators developing retirement communities.

This market is backed by polices at both local and national level as well as a Government older people’s housing taskforce, launched as part of the Levelling Up strategy.

According to Knight Frank, this is attracting investors. A report published earlier this month found that 2021 spending by institutional investors was £1.4bn, breaking previous records.

A threat to care homes?
With this part of the social care sector set to take off, could it become a threat to existing care homes in terms of competition for residents?

Retirement communities actually complement care homes, argues Michael Voges, executive director of Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) the representative body for much of this sector.

He explains that demand is driven by increasing numbers of people living longer with co-morbidities and massive cohort of people born in 1946 who have just turned 75/76 – the age at which entry to retirement communities typically starts.

Furthermore, in the the past 30 years both nursing and residential care homes have moved up the acuity scale, taking in residents who need more complex care.

Voges said: “There is nothing really anymore to provide for people who have some care needs but not a huge amount. So for some of those care providers they see an opportunity for a kind of extension of what they already do.”

Hallmark chair and Santhem chief executive Avnish Goyal describes it as a “natural extension of providing high-quality hospitality and lifestyle choices as well as outstanding care and wellbeing”.

He hopes Santhem will attract local people who “want to have a certain quality of life upon their retirement”.

Anchor, which already operates retirement communities, recently entered a joint venture with McCarthy Stone to develop an initial five sites.

The partnership will see McCarthy Stone manage the retirement living properties while Anchor will run the extra care housing on site. The first two sites are expected to open by the end of the year.

Anchor’s director of new business Charles Taylor believes there is an under-supply of “truly affordable for all retirement communities”.

There are, however, planning and regulatory barriers holding the sector back, largely because it is not clear where retirement communities fall on the social care spectrum.

Taylor added: “Development is often difficult and expensive due in part to a lack of support and policy within the planning system. This is holding back investment in the sector despite proven need and demand.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to supported and specialist housing as part of the Social Care White Paper and are calling on the Government to ensure that the new planning reforms include changes which encourage local authorities to include older people’s housing in their Local Plans.”

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