Over-65s in safety-proof struggle

Of over-65s 2.8 million need to safety-proof their homes for retirement, as one in five (19%) have put off repairs or adaptions in the past due to a lack of money, while nearly one in six (14%) who need work done say they cannot afford to spend anything and will have to make do without.

In later life staircases, gardens and bathrooms hold the greatest risks, as 38% of over-65 homeowners consider the staircases or landing as the most difficult part of their home.

Keeping the property safe is considered a higher priority than adding to its value with home adaptions, as a third of over-65s priorities safety and practical comfort over adding value.

Nigel Waterson, chairman of the Equity Release Council, said: “These findings show just how important people feel it is for them to be able to remain in their current homes throughout their retirement.

“Living on in familiar surroundings is clearly the majority choice, which sooner or later means tackling the practical challenge of managing their physical comfort and safety as they grow older.

“The ambition to retire in the comfort of their existing home often brings a need for adaptations to safety-proof their surroundings. Investing carefully with this in mind can extend the period of time where someone can live practically and comfortably at home before they need to consider options such as residential care.

“With many over-65s asset rich and cash poor, it is a logical step to consider releasing some of their housing equity to prolong the pleasure they take from spending their retirement years in the place they call home.”

A growing number of equity release customers are using part of their housing equity to fund home and garden improvements, as the latest figures from retirement adviser Key Retirement Solutions’ Market Monitor showed that 67% of customers used money from equity release for this purpose in Q1 2014, up from 58% a year earlier.

Outdoor lights are the most commonly needed adaptation to ensure over-65s’ homes are practical and safe to live in, as three quarters (76%) see this as a necessary feature, while 20% live in homes that needs this work to be carried out

More than two in three over-65s (69%) already have or anticipate a need for a downstairs toilet, compared with 50% for a downstairs shower and 43% for an adapted bath, electric bath lift or fitted shower seat.

The majority of over-65s (87%) would turn to their savings to pay for home improvements or care adaptations, but 6% of over-65s have no savings while almost one in five (18%) have less than £10,000 to fall back on.

While some state support is available to help with home maintenance and adaptations, over-65s have had limited success in securing help for past projects.

More have been turned down for support via a Home Improvement Agency than were accepted (7% vs. 8%), while most were unaware of the possibility of support from this source (86%).

The same is true of disabled facilities grants, with 9% successfully getting help while 15% were rejected and 76% were unaware of what is available.

Georgina Smith, managing director of Stonehaven, said: “In a climate where people are living longer and pensions have not met people’s expectations, we are seeing a significant growth within the lifetime mortgage market.

“Many retirees want to stay within the familiar surroundings of their own home and a lifetime mortgage is a way of ensuring they can retain control over their lifestyle by using the extra money to make simple adjustments to the home but still live within their means. 33% of Stonehaven customers are currently using equity release to make home and garden improvements.

“New innovative lifetime mortgage products allow the homeowner to make interest payments on the amount borrowed which avoids the effects of interest roll-up. Lifetime mortgages come with product features in place to safeguard the customer, for example ensuring there is no risk of repossession or losing ownership of the home.”