There’s no denying that lockdown has been a lonely period for many, particularly those living on their own. There are however signs of this shifting to a positive outcome, with lockdown loneliness giving people the chance to re-evaluate their lifestyles and future priorities, with over a quarter of retirees (27%) claiming the pandemic has changed the way they see retirement living, according to residential property services provider, FirstPort.

When asked what they found particularly difficult during lockdown, not seeing family and friends (66%), feeling bored (28%) and feeling isolated (20%) were amongst the top answers. Almost half (48%) of those looking to move hope that it will help them build new connections and friendships.

FirstPort, the UK’s leading residential property services provider, which manages 1,300 independent living retirement developments across the UK, found that 40% of over 65s say the pandemic has made them decide to move into an independent living retirement development, as people seek fun and friendship post-lockdown.

The survey of more than 1,000 retirees found that over two thirds (69%) believe you can have as much fun in your 60s as you can in your 20s. When asked what they were looking forward to doing when restrictions lift, respondents said socialising with friends (68%), going to the pub (31%) and reconnecting with a community group they are part of (15%).

The height of the pandemic put off many people who were considering moving home. FirstPort saw exchanges during the first lockdown decline by 64% compared to the same period in 2019. However, now the picture is much more positive.

The easing of restrictions has boosted confidence, which has led to an increase in interest in specialist retirement living communities, with both more properties on the market and more sales.

With lockdown restrictions lifting and residents being able to socialise in communal lounges once more, FirstPort, a member of the Partners Programme at the International Longevity Centre, spoke to ILC’s Senior Research Fellow, Dr Brian Beach, who said:

“Lockdown restrictions impacted all our lives, with some of the impacts particularly affecting older people. This research has highlighted important changes in older people’s perceptions of retirement living and the influence of the pandemic on these changes; nearly a quarter (23%) of those looking to move into a retirement community had not considered this before lockdown.

“Hopefully, this shift signals greater awareness of the benefits that retirement communities provide in terms of improved lifestyle and social connections. My own work over the years has demonstrated the value of retirement living in reducing isolation and loneliness, along with better outcomes related to health and independence.

“Modern and purpose-built retirement communities will continue to rise in popularity as more and more people recognise their value in enhancing later life by providing ample opportunities to foster social connections. It’s great to see that lounges in these developments are beginning to open again, as they offer vital social contact for many after a difficult period of restrictions.”

Angela, resident at Homeborough House, a FirstPort managed independent living retirement development, said: “After my husband’s passing, the prospect of moving back to the UK from our house in Spain and into a retirement development was daunting as I wasn’t sure where I could be happy again. Luckily, I met Sheila in the communal lounges a few days after moving in. Sheila’s husband had also recently passed and acted as a much-needed friend. We were both able to help each other get through our grief and mend our broken hearts with friendship. It is difficult to make friends when you are older, and I was surprised to find someone who I have so much in common with at my age.”

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