With constant advances in technology, medicine and lifestyles, people in the Biggleswade area are, on average, living longer than they might have a few decades ago. As Biggleswade's population ages, the problem of how the older generation are accommodated is starting to emerge. We, as a town, have to consider how we supply decent and appropriate accommodation for Biggleswade’s growing older generation’s accommodation needs while still offering a lifestyle that is both modern and desirable.
In 1997 in Biggleswade, around one in every eight people (13%) were aged 65 years and over (and the local authority area as a whole), increasing to nearly one in every five people (18%) in 2017 and it is projected to reach around one in every four people (24%) by 2037, meaning..
Over the next 19 years, the growth of the over 65 population in Biggleswade will grow by 33.3% - a lot more than the overall growth population of Biggleswade of 21.0% over the same time frame.
In fact, the number of those over 90 is expected to more than double in our local authority from 2,050 (0.7%) in 2017 to 5,269 (1.6%) by 2037.
And looking at the proportional percentage changes over those years..
Age group percentage of the Central Bedfordshire
Council - 1997 to 2017 and 2017 to 2037
Percentage Change from 1997 to 2017
Percentage Change from 2017 to 2037
16 to 64
65 and Over
Looking at Biggleswade and the local authority as a whole, there is a distinct under supply of bungalows and retirement living (i.e. sheltered) accommodation. The majority of sheltered accommodation fit for retirement is in the ex-local authority sector whilst the majority of private sector bungalows were built in the 1960s/70s/80s and are beginning to show their age (although that means there is often an opportunity for Biggleswade investors and Biggleswade buy to let landlords to buy a tired bungalow, do it up and flip it/rent it out).
In the medium to longer term, we need to build more bungalows and sheltered accommodation and, if we do that, that won’t only be of benefit to the elderly population of Biggleswade – it will have a direct knock-on effect to the younger and middle-aged population by unlocking those family homes the older generation homeowners live in.
There have been 17 Housing Ministers since 1997. No one ever seems to stay in the job long enough to create a consensus and direction in Government Policy on the vital issue of the country’s housing shortage, yet the sound bites and White Papers seem only to focus exclusively on first-time buyers when there is an even more severe and disregarded shortage in suitable housing for the older generation.
This scantiness affects both mature homeowners trapped in unsuitably big family properties, unable to find smaller bungalows or suitable retirement apartments, whilst the waiting list for Council sheltered accommodation is putting a strain on other aspects of social care. In both circumstances, policy coming (or not coming) out of Government is repressing the supply and type of accommodation mature people desire, need and want, whilst at the same time, increasing the cost (and taxes) for social and NHS care.
Maybe we need tax breaks for people to downsize or planning permissions that stipulate bungalows only. Whichever way you look .. there are challenging times ahead for us all.