Only yesterday I received an email from a man, in his early sixties, who had suddenly been made homeless. Lacking the necessary finances to afford to stay in a hotel, he was looking for somewhere affordable in which to live.
A few months earlier, I heard from a friend, also in his sixties, who was sofa surfing. After 27 years of marriage, his wife had decided to call it a day and left him without a place to live. Lucky for him, I’d been in touch with an older woman earlier in the week who was offering a low-cost room in her Northwest London home in exchange for companionship and some light shopping duties. With shared interests in art and food, they are both happily living together.
I wish I could say these incidents were isolated, but they’re not. I call it the three ‘D’s’ — debt, divorce and death, that can lead to a person aged 50+ suddenly finding themselves without the means to afford to rent or buy a place of their own.
There’s a popular misconception that Boomers have it OK because we’re an asset owning class. While it’s true that homeowners aged 55+ account for 55% of all UK homeowners, many, myself included, have cash flow problems. Single women are more likely to live in poverty in later life, having roughly £100k less in their pensions than a man of comparable age.
Our population is ageing. The number of people aged 65 and over will increase by more than 40% within 20 years, and the number of households where the oldest person is 85 and above is rising faster than any other age group. (The State of Ageing 2019, Centre for Ageing Better). This ageing population needs affordable places to live, and most would prefer to ‘age in place,’ remaining within the communities and surrounded by the people they know and love.
Those now unable to afford a home will contribute to a growing rental market, with an estimated 1 in 3 people aged 65 or over renting by 2040.
What’s the solution? For the past 18 months, I’ve been working on liberating many bedrooms in the homes of empty nesters. We make it easy for them to generate a passive income by taking in lodgers, or ‘home-mates’ as we prefer to call them. A pandemic notwithstanding, this spare bedroom provides one form of affordable accommodation for many priced out of the housing market…