ALMOST seven out of every ten homeowners aged 55+ (63%) in the South West want to stay living in their current property during retirement, but just 35% believe they can do so safely without making home adaptations, according to new research by the Equity Release Council (The Council).

The findings mean at least 388,000 people across the South West are living in homes which need investment to make them safe and practical for later life, so their owners can realise their ambition to stay put during retirement¹.

Almost than one in three over-55 homeowners (30%) have put off important repairs or changes to their home because of a lack of money. This is higher than the UK figure of 19%. More than one in six (17%) who need work done say they cannot afford to spend anything and will have to make do without (compared to 14% across the UK).

Making their property safe to live in is considered a higher priority than adding to its value when investing in home improvements or adaptations in the South West. Among those with a need to spend on their homes, more than one in four (27%) prioritise safety and practical comfort over adding value, while a further 52% believe both are equally important (compared to UK figures of 33% and 49% respectively).

Staircase, bathroom and garden are biggest source of concern The staircase or landing is the most common source of concern for over-55 homeowners in the South West: 30% see this as the most difficult part of their home to use as they grow older, followed by their garden (24%), bathroom (17%) and other outside areas (12%).

In each case, significant numbers of over-55s live in homes that will need extra work carried out to add these features.

While some state support is available to help with home maintenance and adaptations, the South West’s over-55s have had limited success with securing help for past projects.

More people have been turned down for support via a Home Improvement Agency than were accepted (13% vs. 7%), while most were unaware of the possibility of support from this source (80%). The same is true for disabled facilities grants where 12% were accepted, 19% were turned down and 70% were unaware that such support might be available.

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-55s 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.”