Why people are picking London for their retirement

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BBC Inside Out discovers why London is the best place to retire to

London is often thought of as a young person's city, but - despite what many might think - some pensioners now regard it as a "retirement nirvana".

A survey by strategic advice firm BritainThinks has found that the capital appeals to pensioners because of its excellent transport links, its vibrant cultural scene and even the opportunity to become anonymous in a sprawling city, BBC Inside Out reports.

But not everything falls in London's favour. The capital is often derided because of its high cost of living, excessive noise, air pollution and the fear of crime.

And a report by pensions company Prudential ranking the best places to retire in Britain, placed eight London boroughs in the bottom 20 of 174 locations analysed.

While Dorset was ranked top, London's Tower Hamlets came fifth from bottom.

Not for the young?

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Despite stereotypes, the capital can be much more appealing to pensioners than the young

Deborah Mattinson, director for BritainThinks, said London might not be the best place for young people due to its high cost of living. However, for pensioners the city offers the chance to be yourself, because "however different you are, London will embrace you".

"Older people can afford London - often they've got property which means that they don't have to worry about where they live," she added.

"They like the atmosphere, they like its diversity, they like what it has to offer culturally - they like everything about it."

"People think of London as a young city, but one of the things we found - and there's an irony here - is that the people that London works best for is actually not young people at all.

"We found increasingly that we had a group of unhappy young people living in London, none of them can afford anywhere to live - they're all looking for jobs.

"It's very competitive whether you've got a degree from Oxford or a school leaver, to the point where older people are moving into London while younger people are thinking 'I'm going to be moving out of here'."

Getting around

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The quality of public transport is a key appeal for Steve Pratt, who has lived all his life in the capital

Steve Pratt retired in London after working in the capital as a car mechanic.

A keen fisherman, he would have been a prime candidate for moving to a cottage by a stream or a bungalow near the sea, but he relishes London's rich mix of sights and sounds along with its accessibility.

"The transport system is absolutely fantastic, you've only got to wait two or three minutes and a bus comes along," he said.

"If you live in a London borough you get a £10 card and you go anywhere - Underground, national rail, Overground - you can go all over.

"I've lived here all my life and I've seen places I didn't know existed.

"I go up to the Old Bailey, sit in on a case there - there's so much here, I'm up and down most days of the week. It's pure theatre."

Getting lost

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Mark Breese values the anonymity that a large city like London can bring

Mark Breese moved to the capital and values being unknown in its sprawl - something he has found impossible living in a smaller environment.

"I'm a person in long term recovery - my particular addiction is alcohol and I have been sober for 27 years," he said.

"Since I retired I have thrown myself into doing volunteer work for people who suffer from addiction issues.

"There's 600 people or so in the village [where I used to live] and I sneeze and everybody knows. If anybody else sneezes I know about it, and that's lovely - there's a sense of community.

"But the big city and its anonymity, where everybody doesn't know their own neighbours, I think creates a freedom for people who might meet disapproval, more from a lack of education and understanding."

Keeping lively

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Mark Bostock says the need to walk in London helps keep older people active

Mark Bostock and his wife bought a flat in Barbican and enjoy the need to walk through London's streets, which keeps them active in their later years.

"Where we are in the Barbican, if you put a line round a 40 minute walk you can cover most places that you want to go," he said.

"As one gets older, one's brain needs a good stimulus in order to avoid some of these rather nasty conditions that one seems to get in old age, and I think living in the country, no matter how attractive it is, one doesn't get that level of stimulation.

"One tends to walk much more extensively in London - you go up and down escalators if you're using London Underground, in the country one is very much more car-borne, and I think if your active in this way this is good for your health."

"We had a period when we had this flat in London and we had a very nice house with a lovely garden in Suffolk, but our intention is that as we get older, the Barbican is going to be where we are going to spend the rest of our lives."