With Christmas just around the corner, many of us will be looking forward to spending time with family, friends and loved ones.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. For people who have lost their loved ones, living far from relatives or are estranged from family and friends, Christmas can be a lonely and challenging time.

But loneliness impacts us all year round, with over nine million people feeling lonely at some point over the year, a study by The Co-op, and the British Red Cross revealed – more than the entire population of London.

The solution could literally be close to home; housing has a crucial if underrated role in helping us all feel more connected.

Emerging asset classes such as Later Living and Build-to-Rent are putting community and wellbeing at the core of their design and operation, with operators taking greater interest in the mental and physical health of their residents. 

Though the UK’s Later Living sector is small at the moment, with only 0.6% of over-65s in 2017 living in retirement communities, according to the Local Government Association, this is set to change, with a wave of investment expected to pour into the asset class over the coming years. 

Knight Frank forecasts the UK’s Later Living sector will increase by 40% in value over the next five years alone to £55 billion. 

More than two million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and over a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member, according to Age UK. 

As a result, the location and design of these developments will play a vital role in battling loneliness among our older generations. Developing Later Living communities within towns and cities would certainly help boost the wellbeing of retirees by fostering inter-generational interaction. 

And this would appeal to many older people, with three-quarters of 2,000 homeowners and renters over the age of 65 surveyed by Knight Frank earlier this year saying that having a later living scheme located close to town centres was important

While loneliness is commonly associated with the elderly, the latest figures show it is an issue affecting many young people too. A third of millennials say they feel lonely, the highest percentage of all the generations surveyed, according to YouGov. 

With younger people renting for longer than ever, there is an onus on Build-to-Rent developments to be designed and operated with community in mind.

For example, Angel Gardens by Moda Living has a range of amenities and features designed to support a growing community and interaction with neighbours, including a bespoke app to allow residents to organise events with each other. This is on top of the activities put in place by the on-site team, who will also be trained in ‘mental health first aid’ by health tech start-up hero.

More broadly, Moda Living had property consultants JLL conduct a ‘health and wellbeing MOT’ across their whole portfolio, judging on where the build-to-rent operator was doing well and what room there was for improvement. 

While BTR is often seen as being for high flying millennials, the truth is the sector has potential for broad appeal, enabling the creation of genuine intergenerational communities – something no doubt both the young and old would benefit from. 

Loneliness has become an epidemic in the UK. But there is no reason for that to continue, and new residential asset classes and the wider built environment can play crucial roles in helping Britain shake its reputation for being one of the ‘loneliness capitals of Europe’.