In London, pricey properties and thriving high streets appear wherever young hipsters go; in the rest of Britain, pensioners often blaze the trail. Coastal towns, increasingly dominated not just by the over-60s but by the over-70s, saw a 128% rise in property prices between 2001 and 2011, above the British average uptick of 119%. Where the old have moved inland, to cathedral cities like Lichfield, high house prices have followed. Ray Nottage, head of Christchurch council, has no intention of chasing yuppies. When it comes to the local economy, he says, “we’re much more sophisticated than that”.
Nationally, an ageing population is a problem. But locally it can be a boon. The over-50s control 80% of Britain’s wealth, and like to spend it on houses and high-street shopping. The young “generation rent”, by contrast, is poor, distractible and liable to shop online.
Meanwhile, with the over-50s holding the purse strings, the towns that draw them are likely to grow more and more pleasant. The lord mayor of Manchester, Sue Cooley, notes that decent restaurants and nice shops spring up in the favoured haunts of the old, just as they do in the trendy, revamped boroughs of London. Latimer House, a Christchurch furniture store full of retro clothing and 1940s music, would not look out of place in Hackney. Improved high streets then entice customers of all ages.
So, next time I or some other demographer notes that aging can be a societal problem, remember that it's not all bad--as long as the older population has a little money to spend...