Posted on July 25, 2018 by Gordon Smith

As a nation, we’re getting older and living longer.

By 2027, the population of 65+ adults is set to increase by 20%. Great in some ways, but a huge impact on population growth – and associated resources, such as healthcare.

As we’re living longer and getting fitter, older adults are increasingly looking to alternatives to care homes. As a result, we’re now seeing a huge growth in Later Living developments or communities. Originally a US concept, this is now gaining traction in the UK and offering more choice for the older generation.

The growth of later living schemes

As people get older and shift into retirement, they want to reduce the responsibilities of maintaining a house and downsize to a space that requires less upkeep, whilst also helping mobility by being on one level or having fewer stairs.

However, with only 2% of the UK’s homes allocated as retirement homes, the only alternatives are to move to a care home – or go on a sheltered housing waiting list. With these options, unsurprisingly, most older adults are choosing to stay in the family home.

This has an unfortunate blocking effect on the property market, making it harder for younger people to get their feet on the property ladder. It also has a psychological impact on the individual as they feel they are tied to the family home and have to keep it running, which in turn makes them feel restricted, isolated and lonely.

This is where later living schemes become important, as they are set to shake up the market and give older adults more options around where and how they want to live.

Knight Frank predicts this market will grow to a value of £44bn in the next five years. There are schemes currently under construction across the UK, with the number of retirement living units set to increase by almost 30% from 2017–2022.

If you’re a developer, then, understandably, you want your site to stay ahead of the competition, which is why gym and fitness facilities can give you that added edge and keep your residents agile and mobile.

The importance of fitness in later life

Currently, the over 65’s are the most sedentary age group, as they spend up to 10 hours per day sitting down. The knock-on effect of this is shortness of breath, aches and pains and a general lack of fitness.

As our bodies grow older and become more susceptible to falls, it’s important to work on core and overall body strength, as well as bone density, which can be achieved through weights, cardio and resistance training. This helps keep the body more agile and more flexible.

It is recommended that older adults do 10 – 15 minutes of moderate exercise, everyday, which could be anything from riding a bike, doing weights or mowing the lawn.

Later living schemes are designed to give older adults as much independence as possible, so making sure your development has the right fitness facilities in place to help support that premise will give you an edge over your competitors.

Gym design for later living

As you might expect gym design for later living schemes needs careful consideration as equipment needs to be accessed easily without too much strain on the body.

Ensuring weights and handheld equipment are at waist height for ease of access, as well as making sure cardio equipment is easy to use with clear instructions when setting a workout programme.

Multi-purpose resistance towers are ideal for older adults, as are ellipticals and bikes. For strengthening work, kettlebells, medicine balls and resistance bands are also great.

When building a gym for any community or development, it’s important to have a few sets of the same equipment, so there are no shortages during peak times. If people are paying a premium, then a shortage of equipment won’t cut it.

It’s also important to create an area for stretching and additional classes, so mats and bands should also be provided. If you have the space to build an additional studio, then this could be used for Yoga or Pilates sessions, as well as other group-based exercise, such as dance or Tai Chi.

The benefits of a gym

Needless to say, exercise for older adults is extremely important and therefore a crucial part of a later living scheme. It shouldn’t be seen as a value-add, but an integral part of the development.

With loneliness being a key issue for the over 60’s, a gym is a great place for residents to socialise and meet people. Group exercise classes will not only help improve mobility but will also be an opportunity to get talking to fellow residents.

Ageing well is such an important issue, not just for overall health, but to also ensure less pressure is put on the health system and that people are living happy, active and fulfilled lives for as long as possible.

Make sure your later living scheme enables your residents to live their best life yet; get in touch and find out how we can help you make that happen.