According to the latest research, around 8 million people in the UK now live alone, compared with 7 million in 2005 and a mere 3 million in 1971.
Pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last couple of years, restricting contact with friends and family, even banning church attendance and socialising in clubs, have inevitably triggered a potential loneliness crisis. Not everyone has the technology to manage emails or Zoom ‘meetings’ which cannot replace personal contact. Sharing trips to the cinema or theatre, exploring shops and popping into the pub are as important to general wellbeing as pottering in the garden or chatting to someone over the fence.
Whilst communities have done their best to support neighbours, there is a growing trend for families to review how they live their lives. Many younger singles have moved back in with their parents to keep each other company, save on rent, potentially building deposits for their own future home purchases or long-delayed foreign exploration.
But, having a greater understanding of the negative impacts of loneliness on people of all ages means some families are examining ways to share living space, without sacrificing anyone’s independence.
If moving isn’t an option, and utilising a basement or converting a loft wouldn’t help, one solution is to purchase an adjoining property, knocking them together to accommodate a young growing family and elderly parent. 1930’s semis in suburban areas can offer considerable potential, usually having garages which can be repurposed, and good-sized gardens to merge into one. Many such properties are occupied by older people, who may wish to move into retirement homes, so it is worth exploring the idea with your neighbour, without pressure, if they fit the bill.
Another option is to convert redundant farm buildings, which the government is keen to see repurposed, having introduced changes to permitted development rights to simplify the planning process. These structures usually come with at least half an acre, and are not remote, being close to thriving rural communities. Local residents are usually aware of which landowners are planning disposal, so research your chosen area and listen to the gossip; it is not always necessary to go through agents, which can reduce costs and speed up the process to everyone’s benefit.
Former churches can also be converted/extended to provide open-plan living space full of light. As with any major project, good architects are essential to maximise the potential, retaining the character of the original buildings to meet the demands of modern, environmentally friendly style.
The over-55’s could use equity release to partly fund both the acquisition and building works in partnership with family members. However, the key to success is having a detailed, costed plan designed by professionals who consult with the relevant authorities to ensure full compliance for regulations.
Our Premier Equity Release advisers would be happy to discuss the potential for different generations living together, but independently.