Witherford Watson almshouse

Real estate for the ageing population

Pi Labs Real Estate And The Ageing Population ReportWhat impact will our ageing population have on the property sector? What opportunities exist for proptech businesses that want a piece of the action? How might we all live in our golden years? And who’ll pay for it?

Proptech venture capital firm Pi Labs’ white paper on real estate and the ageing population considers these questions. Here’s your at-a-glance guide.

This article originally featured in the TRENDS Q3 report

What’s the background?

As the world’s population gets older, countries are seeing increasing demand for new and upgraded care services, as well as for housing that helps older people stay active and healthy.

And, the report says, these changes have “powerful implications” for the real estate industry, with technology one of the main areas of opportunity.

Key findings

  • The sheer number of older people, and the fact they’re living longer, will impact property and housing demand in the future, especially in high density, expensive urban areas, presenting a “world of possibilities… [and a] good incentive to disrupt”
  • The priority for startups and investors must be bringing together design and technology to create effective, efficient and enjoyable places at a competitive price
  • It’s likely more people will be financially responsible for planning and paying for their own later life provision as economies struggle to keep up with demand
  • Investing is a great opportunity to make a difference to society at large — with early adopters helping define the sector’s direction

Where are the opportunities?


From telehealth devices such as blood pressure cuffs and remote monitoring, the integration of health and connective technologies is
speeding up. Voice-based systems have seen a slower uptake, but residents at a facility in California used Amazon’s Echo device to — amongst other things — set timers, play music and control lights and small appliances. Every participant said it made their life easier.

Urban planning

Introducing more age-friendly features to encourage older people to go out, including widening pavements, easier access to buses and trams and increased pedestrian crossing times.

People-centred living

Creating places that encourage integration. In London, the Witherford Watson Mann practice is building an almshouse complex of 57 flats for over-75s. This inner-city space’s facilities include a lounge that opens onto the street, a craft workshop, a rooftop garden and a courtyard garden.

Interior design

Changing the way people interact with the inside of their homes. Examples include specially-designed social areas that encourage interaction, while research in Norway is looking at the effect of bright light therapy on around 100 dementia patients, assessing its effectiveness as an alternative to treating the disease with drugs.

Care housing

Making the most of the connection between housing and health. For example in the Hogeweyk gated community in Weesp, the Netherlands, residents, all with dementia, can move freely within the protected environment, which includes streets, green spaces, a shop and restaurant. Staff support them with tasks such as washing and cooking. The proportion of patients prescribed antipsychotic drugs dropped from 50% in 1993, when the facility was a regular nursing home, to just 8% in 2015.

Click here to read the Pi Labs whitepaper

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