The concept of the retirement village has been quite widespread in America for years, but it’s only recently spread to Britain. These days you can find several across the country, often in rural locations that are still quite accessible to cities. They offer independent living, but in a small community of similarly-aged people (invariably 55+), in modern housing that are designed for the elderly, and with care readily at hand.
The Advantages of Retirement Villages
There’s the combination of independence and security, with the opportunity to still lead an active life with a sense of community. The villages often have organised activities most evenings, in addition to shopping trips during the day. In many cases the residents organise their own clubs and activities, so there’s no feeling of restriction.
The housing, which ranges from studio apartments to houses, is specifically designed for the elderly. Often, for example, plugs are higher on the wall, eliminating the need to bend down, and bathrooms will come with rails for bath and toilet. Houses will often have the main bedroom on the ground floor, so there’s no need to cope with stairs on a regular basis.
Being barrier-free and efficiently heated, the village environment removes many of the difficulties and dangers of living in inappropriate accommodation, especially the risk of falls. Additionally, it’s easy to effectively target residents for health promotion initiatives such as exercise programmes and flu vaccinations. Larger schemes offer greater opportunities to provide health and exercise facilities, ranging from ‘fun’ exercise like dancing groups, to that geared to those with particular health difficulties. On-site catering services can promote healthy eating, and attend to particular dietary requirements, as well as ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to eat a meal that is both hot and nutritious every day.
Residents can be assisted by flexible care services which are provided on-site, as their care needs change, and may reduce the need for hospital admission and promote early hospital discharge. For those who need a little more care, serviced apartments are generally available, where a cleaner comes in to tidy on a regular basis, and meals are available to be delivered.
The villages are of a manageable size, generally running from 100-300 dwellings. They attract a range of people from different backgrounds, which promotes diversity. Although most are privately owned and run, some are also run by housing associations and housing trusts (the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust was a pioneer in this field).
One myth about retirement villages is that they’re child-free zones. It’s true that the residents are all older, but they’re free to have guests, including children, although there’s usually a time limit on the stay.
The Disadvantages of Retirement Villages
For those used to their own houses and gardens, there might seem to be a loss of personal space as there are no individual gardens. However, most developments are set in rolling, open countryside, so there’s plenty of lawn space and nature to enjoy, with easy walking around the village.
One concern for potential residents is the service charges. It’s true that the more services offered by a facility, the greater the monthly service charge that has to be paid. But that’s true anywhere and a retirement village offers a great deal more security than living in the community. The Association of Retirement Housing Managers code of practice covers how the service charges are made.
Most properties, at least in private retirement villages, are sold, rather than rented. They’re generally a sound investment however if a development is successfully established, ask about resale values. For leasehold properties you may require a licence, or have something written into the lease that proscribes who they can be sold on to – usually in terms of age or care needs. Often, traditional retirement villages operate a system to buy back your property if you have to sell and the value of the property has decreased, usually at 95 to 100 per cent of the original price. There will be a levy payable to the management company if the value of your property increases and you sell on the open market.