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The new generation game - when will we be happiest in the years to come?

PUBLISHED: 12:22 03 October 2014

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

Family life is changing and people of all ages are thinking about how – and where – they will be happiest in the years to come, says Jan Raycroft

One of my best – and most vivid – childhood memories is of a sunny day on the beach and here comes my grandmother, doing her utmost to ignore the sand clogging up her stockings and sandals as, with a big smile on her face, she delivers the best ice cream cones in the world. Along the way she kicks off a string of that dried brown seaweed that has attached itself to a shoe.

It’s all a bit of a balancing act as gran is also keeping a strong grip on the magic big black handbag that goes everywhere with her. The special powers of this handbag came from the fact that it seemed to be full of an endless supply of silver sixpences.

I was reminded of this moment in a shop recently when my own imperious granddaughter – not yet three – chose to buy a book and told the lady behind the counter that of course she had money to pay for it: “It’s in Jan’s bag.”

That week I also watched my own mother having a hilarious game with the little madam (each had a woollen monkey toy and upon my mother’s declaration of ‘Monkeys… fight!’ energetic mayhem filled with giggles would ensue).

I suddenly realised that I knew nothing of my own great grandparents, but that health and social care improvements meant that four generations of a family was becoming ‘the norm’. It’s not just a Royal Family thing, many people reach 60 with one or both of their parents still around and very active, and with two lots of their own descendants.

The shape of our families is changing and this is making us think about how we live. Add in that many young people are finding it very difficult to move into homes of their own and you have a concertina effect. It could well be that we will need to rethink how we pass heirlooms and property down the generations.

Perhaps the emphasis needs to move to grandparents giving a bigger helping hand to grandchildren – a Generation 1 to Generation 3 boost – as their own children are the ones most likely to be already living mortgage-free, possibly even early retired.

Did you know, for instance, that Savills believe around £1 trillion in equity is owned by the over 65s in the UK?

Two million people aged 70-79 plan to downsize in the next four years, which will free up some of that cash. In fact, on average each seller will have made £85,000 on their property, according to the latest research from Prudential.

“We’re noticing a lot more interest from customers in our area keen to sell their larger homes in order to free up equity and buy one or two smaller properties,” says Antony Gibson, Director of Residential Sales at Romans. “This in turn is bringing sought-after properties onto the market, perfect for those looking to move up the property ladder into their dream family home.”

Some of those downsizers will be buying a smaller home for themselves and an easy maintenance holiday home which will eventually become the place they live. Others are also buying two homes – one for themselves and one for grandchildren so they too can start families.

Another booming area is the conversion of larger family properties to include annexes that might be granny flats or treasured boltholes for young people seeking a little independence. Tim Green of Hartwood Oak Buildings at Newbury sees many people doing just that – it seems the family can grow at each end of the age scale.

But what if sharing family space just isn’t possible as we become frailer, or we simply wish to maintain our own space even with a little support along the way? We have some of the country’s best care homes in Berkshire, many providing as much independent living as possible.

Personally, I’ve always liked the idea put forward by a friend when we were all Thirty-Somethings. The masterplan was that at a certain stage we all cash in our chips, move to a shared mansion in the South of France, employ some help, and look after each other until The End (last man or woman standing) when the property would be sold and shares in it passed on to relatives.

Far more realistically, I did see an answer at Lynwood Village in Sunninghill recently. This beautiful development in 20 acres of woodland and pretty gardens has a mix of lovely cottages and swanky apartments, all designed for older residents.

Whether it’s electrical points at sensible heights, doors that respond to arthritic fingers or steps that don’t make the knees twinge, walk-in showers, all the little touches that make a difference have been taken into account. Of course you could live here fit as a flea, but the clever design ensures that no move is needed if the niggles of old age set in, and the cottages are wheelchair friendly if required, courtesy of wide door and hallways.

The village has a courtyard with restaurant bar and coffee shop open seven days a week. Then there’s the swimming and hydrotherapy pools, jacuzzi and fitness suite. It sounds like Heaven to me… but that can wait for now!

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