Torbay’s higher population of older residents also face more struggles with finances and housing

It is no secret that the naturally inspiring beauty of Torbay hides pockets of poverty that blight the lives of thousands.

We have long known that the ageing population – we have one of the highest proportion of over 50’s in the country living here in the Bay – struggles for all sorts of reasons, and at the core, the biggest single issue is housing.

A new report from a charity called Independent Age has found that there are concentrations of older renters, particularly in deprived areas of London and coastal areas.

It has long been recognised that Torbay is a magnet for people wishing to retire because they fondly remember their family holidays in the sixties, seventies and eighties when the English Riviera was in its heyday.

Because the Bay attracts such large numbers, there is an acknowledged shortage of housing, particularly social and affordable housing, forcing more people into the private rental sector where various pressures have sent some rents soaring to unaffordable levels.

We also know that it is not a problem that is exclusive to older people, there are many others of all age groups struggling to keep a roof over their heads. We know because we discuss the problems on a daily basis on the Torbay Community Helpline.

As with every area, young people cannot get on the housing ladder and there are fewer and fewer rental opportunities across the Bay as private investors choose to sell their properties.

Nationally, Independent Age found that places with a high proportion of older private renters are also among the most deprived, which may explain why older people who rent often live in poor-quality homes: 28% of renters aged 65–74 and 33% of renters aged 75+ live in sub-standard homes.

Their findings were also in keeping with new with new government data, which showed that some of the poorer areas had very high proportions of homes with damp and mould problems.

The report concluded that the concentration of older private renters in areas of deprivation may also explain the poorer health experienced by older private renters, with 47% of older households renting privately self-reporting that their health is poor. This is compared with 41% of people who own their home outright.

The report also echoed our findings through Ageing Well Torbay, which showed that places like Torbay have worse public transport and other services, which can lead to poorer health for older people physically and through loneliness, isolation, and mental health. Poorer health means higher costs, so the circle is complete.

Of the 20 areas with the largest increase in older private renters during this period, ten are coastal areas among the country’s poorest local authorities. The area with the biggest rise is Blackpool — officially the poorest town in England — where 138 out of 1,000 older households were renting in the latest census compared to 105 in 2011. This is followed by Torbay (114 per 1,000 compared to 93 in 2011).

In a report to accompany its research, Independent Age said older private renters are almost three times more likely to be in poverty than those who own their home mortgage-free.

Joanna Elson CBE, Chief Executive of Independent Age said: “Older private renters living on a low income desperately need more protections. If they are forced to move out of the towns they know because of high rent, it is likely they will be cut off from friends and family and move into areas where access to services, including the NHS can be harder, which can lead them to experience worse health outcomes.

“This is not just a disaster for them, but a disaster for our society as a whole. None of us want to live our later years isolated, in poor-quality housing or have our freedom to choose where we live taken away. Yet this is becoming a reality for a growing number of older people in financial hardship in the private rented sector, and it looks set to increase.”

Sadly, here in the Bay, we have a near-perfect storm of problems with no real prospect of an early solution, but we at Torbay Communities, along with our partners, will continue to do what we can.

If you need help, get in touch with one of our friendly and knowledgeable team members on the Torbay Community Helpline – One Call, That’s All – on 01803 446022.