To retire in London – the only way is up says Jane Slade

Retired schoolteacher Kathleen Rawes, 85, missed London’s theatres and restaurants so much after she retired to Harrogate that she moved back six months ago.

“I was craving a taste of city living,” she said. “Harrogate was just too small for me. “I longed to be back in the capital – at the heart of it all.”

She bought a one-bedroom apartment in Battersea Place, London’s first retirement village which rises 10 storeys overlooking Battersea Park and central London.

“I have a view of London that looks like Manhattan at night and I even enjoy watching the planes coming into Heathrow,” she added.

Armed with her ‘freedom pass’ the spritely widow who met her late husband John when they were economics students at the London School of Economics declared: “I am so busy now – I love going to the theatre and don’t mind dining alone in restaurants as I can ear-wig people’s conversations. I also join outings the village organises to museums and galleries.”

There are an estimated two million people over 50 currently living in London, and just 737 private units under construction according to data from the Elderly Accommodation Council. However developers are moving in looking to build high-rise schemes with roof gardens, swimming pools and restaurants and shifting their approach to retirement living as a hospital option to a hospitality one.

“Despite the demographic shift in the capital there has been very little bespoke housing delivered for older people who would like to downsize but are trapped in their family homes because there is nothing for them,” explains Henry Lumby, managing director of Amicala, a new retirement specialist set to build vertical villages in London and designing places people are proud to live in

High-End developer PegasusLife has already conquered the capital with four schemes; the tallest being Hampstead Green Place comprising 59 apartments over eight floors with communal roof terraces and a penthouse.

“Building high means buyers can enjoy fabulous views, and sit outside on the roof terrace away from the pollution at street level,” says Neil MacKichan of retirement property website Retiremove. “London needs more dedicated retirement housing at various price points to enable older people to live in safe and secure properties that can provide care if they need it.

Luxury operator Audley, which has built 16 retirement villages with care in the southeast is building its first London village on a one-acre site by Clapham Common. Some 94 one-and-two bed apartments with a restaurant, pool, library and spa will rise over eight storeys and completed in 2020.

“It is a myth that everyone wants to move to the country as they get older,” says CEO Nick Sanderson. “Our own research has shown us that many people want to stay in the same locality; there is also a trend of older people moving back in to cities. (Audleyvillages.co.uk)

Leading the trend of older people remaining in the capital are celebrities such as Sting who has downsized to an apartment at Battersea Power Station; royal interior designer Nicky Haslam, 79, who has moved into a single-storey apartment opposite the Cromwell Hospital. “I have two bathrooms and room for a carer if I need one,” he says. “I live in the best city in the world, close to two tube stations, walking distance from Waitrose, a great restaurant and opposite a top London hospital.” And broadcaster Joan Bakewell, 85, is marketing her home in Primrose Hill so she can move somewhere smaller nearby.

Building is not confined to central London either – one of PegasusLife’s schemes is in Purley, Greater London where prices are considerably less. One-bed apartments in five-storey Carriages start at £349,950 compared to £795,000 in Hampstead.

Retired teacher Diana Stainbank, 72, bought a two-bed apartment for £650,000 at Carriages in January, after selling a four-bedroom detached house nearby.

The widowed mother of two has lived locally for 29 years, enjoys going to the theatre and sits on an NHS hearings panel for patients in the capital’s mental health hospitals.

“I didn’t want to start all over again in another area,” says Diana who is also member of the National Theatre on London’s South Bank and a volunteer at the David Lean arthouse cinema in Croydon. “I have wonderful friends nearby – and l love being near all the theatres in the West End.”

Her new home which is five minutes from the station is also ideal for pursuing her other passion – walking. “It gives me peace of mind that when I am away on a walk with the Ramblers Association my home is secure and being taken care of. She says” She went walking in Iceland two years ago and is off to Siberia in June

Buying a home in one of London’s retirement communities does not come cheap. And the mayor has declared that while he wants to deliver 4,100 homes to older people a year he also wants older Londoners to move to the coast!

Tom Scaife the newly appointed head of retirement at Knight Frank argues that with no incentives being offered to developers or buyers providing this number of properties is a tall order.

“There is lots of help for people trying to get on the housing ladder but none to get them off,” he says. “For example there is stamp duty relief for first time buyers but not last time buyers.”

The stamp duty on an apartment in London’s ritziest retirement development, Auriens in Chelsea, is an eye-watering £273,750 for a 900 square foot home priced at £3million.

Some 55 assisted-living apartments are being built opposite the Royal Marsden Hospital in Dovehouse Street and will cost up to £10million.

Wealthy owners can expect Lobster cocktail and beluga caviar (£170 for 30g) on the restaurant menu and an indoor swimming pool, sauna, cinema, dog grooming salon and wine storage when the scheme is completed in 2020.


Birchgrove is offering 74 assisted-living homes to rent in Bexley. “You don’t have to get in a chain, pay SDLT, complete and move on the same day; you can even move in for a couple of months to see if you like it – if not you can move back home,” says managing director Honor Barratt. (www.birchgrove.life)

Bankhouse has 36 one and two-bed shared-ownership homes on the upper levels of a 14-storey tower on Albert Embankment in London, priced from £565,000 (www.bankhouseSE1.co.uk)

Quadra near London Fields in Hackney has 29 one-and-two bed apartments for over 55s; 15 for sale priced from £595,000 and 14 for rent (www.downsizer-homes.co.uk)

Bridgewater House extra care scheme in Isleworth provides 36 one and two-bedroom apartments for people aged over 55 who need assisted living support. Prices from £91,250 for 25 per cent share for a one bed. (octavialiving.org.uk)

Woodside Square near Muswell Hill has 161 properties of which 103 are for the over 55s. Described as an intergenerational development one, two and three-bed apartments, priced from £585,000, can be secured via shared ownership, outright purchase or affordable rent. (www.downsizer-homes.co.uk )