Contact Us

This Senior Living Developer Says It Can Reduce Residents’ ‘Biological Age’ And Help The NHS

Can a property development help you live longer? Or keep you healthy for longer, taking pressure off the UK’s overstretched National Health Service?

Inspired Villages, the retirement community developer backed to the tune of £500M by Legal & General and NatWest Pension Funds, says yes. The developer has produced research that shows it can reduce the biological age of its residents by close to nine years through nudging them toward a healthier, more active lifestyle and helping to reduce isolation. 

A team from Inspired's Great Alne Park village took part In Edgbaston Dragon Boat Race in June. The average age was 71.

Helping residents live more healthily for longer is good for them, good for the company and, Inspired Villages said, good for the country: Healthier seniors equate to fewer visits to general practitioners and reduced stays in hospital, which offers the potential for the NHS to save money.

Inspired Villages calls it an example of preventing a problem rather than trying to cure it. 

“We want to create a different narrative around age for people to be prouder about getting younger,” Inspired Villages CEO Jamie Bunce told Bisnow.

“We want to gamify ageing,” he said. “The idea stemmed from Weight Watchers. They’ve been bringing people together for decades to talk about weight in a way people never thought they would. People talk about weight, but they are not talking about age.”

Bunce is among the senior executives set to speak at Bisnow’s UK Later Living Event in September, alongside professor Julienne Meyer, the chair of the government’s Older People’s Housing Taskforce. Sign up for the event here. 

What is Inspired talking about when it mentions biological age? Chronological age is how long someone has been alive in years, months or days. Biological age refers to the age of a person's cells, according to Northwestern University. It can differ from chronological age according to how healthy and happy a person is: Healthier, happier people can have a biological age lower than their chronological age, and unhealthy people can face the reverse situation. 

Inspired's Jamie Bunce

Inspired uses fitness machines from manufacturer EGYM that can measure heart rate, blood pressure, body fat, weight or body mass index, and can perform strength tests. It also measure cognitive functions. These measures can then be used to assess a resident’s biological age.

Residents can see wellbeing specialists who come up with personalised health plans for them. But for those who don’t take up this offer, there are "nudges," to use a behavioural psychology term, ways to encourage residents to be active and social, such as walking groups. 

Bunce said that residents are “celebrated” in one-to-one sessions for improving their health and wellbeing, but there is a social aspect, too. When residents see a particular person being more active, they become interested in how they have done it. 

The social aspect extends to getting the friends and family of residents involved in challenges to reduce their biological ages, as well as people in the local communities around its sites. Interaction between residents and locals can be beneficial, Bunce said, citing the example of a cricket match between the residents of one its communities and local residents. At that event, his 15-year-old son, a keen cricketer, was paired up with an 80-year-old.

“This man hadn’t been at the crease for 30 years, but you could see him looking and feeling younger,” he said. 

Inspired has eight operational villages and a pipeline of 26 more.

Inspired had 1,150 residents living across its eight villages at the end of 2022, the company’s annual report said, with five more under construction. Its pipeline has the capability to expand to 34 sites, with 5,100 homes that can house 8,000 residents. 

Its residents clocked 4,394 gym sessions in 2022, and each gym user averaged 4.82 sessions per month. Together, residents did 46,207 strength exercises and became an average 14% stronger, raising the prospect of a new breed of super strong senior citizens. 

At later stages of life, remaining healthy for longer can mean retaining the ability to undertake basic chores like doing the laundry, Bunce said, allowing people to live independently for longer. 

It also means less strain on health services. The company is in the process of conducting its own research on how improving health correlates with Inspired residents needing fewer GP visits and hospital stays. Bunce cited existing research from Aston University that found people living in retirement communities cost the NHS £3,500 less a year in services provided than those who did not. 

The UK senior living sector has typically bifurcated into higher-end facilities that are only affordable for those who built up significant assets throughout their lives and care facilities funded by ever-decreasing government subsidies, which are often not purpose-built and can be poorer-quality facilities.

Inspired skews more toward the former, but Bunce said the company is looking at how it can use what it learns from running its growing platform to create operational efficiencies and bring its offer to a more mid-market product.

“As a sector, we are able to leverage what we do to have a social impact,” he said. “That’s increasingly at the forefront of financial decision-making, and it’s something that our investors like.”