As you approach retirement, it’s time to consider where and how you want to live in your golden years. There are lots of different options for retirement living, from a retirement bungalow to a round the world cruise, and your choice will depend on your health, your wealth and what you want from your new lifestyle.
Here is a brief rundown of the different ways to live in retirement, explaining the pros and cons of each. You’ll find much more detail by clicking through to our accompanying articles, which look at the most popular options in much more detail.
#1 Staying put
You might think that the easiest option is to simply stay put. After all, your home is probably paid for by now, so you can live rent and mortgage free. You’ll also know your neighbours and feel at home in your local area.
On the down side, large former family homes can be hard to maintain and expensive to heat as you get older, and you’ll pay higher council tax too.
Staying put also puts a strain on the whole housing market, at a time when young families need homes like yours much more than you do. The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors says that as many as 3.5million family homes are currently being blocked by empty nesters.
If you do decide to stay put, you may need to make a number of adjustments to your current home to accommodate your changing needs as you get older. These range from adding rails and banisters for extra stability as you move around, to swapping your bath for a walk-in shower. These changes can make your home safer and more manageable, but they all cost money.
One alternative to staying put is rightsizing. That is swapping your large current home for a smaller, more manageable property. This is sometimes called downsizing, but that infers a compromise or reduction in quality. Rightsizing your home can increase your quality of life, with a home that is right for you in lots of ways. Selling a large home and buying a smaller one can release equity to fund your retirement, or it could help you move to a more desirable location, such as a country village or to the coast.
A YouGov survey by Knight Frank estimates that as many as a third of over 55s would like to right-size their property and their lives by moving to a home that is specifically designed around retirement. However the Inspired Villages Right Size Report notes that there is a significant lack of such homes in the UK, with just 105 retirement properties available per 1000 older homeowners in England and Wales.
#3 Moving in with family
In days gone by, it was accepted that elderly relatives would simply move in with their families as their needs increased. These days, however, older people are less inclined to give up their privacy and their own homes so easily. Similarly, younger homeowners either lack the space, or the inclination, to offer up the home that they have worked so hard for.
If you are considering sharing your home with family or friends in retirement, it is often better to pool your resources and buy a home that suits everyone and feels like it belongs to you all. This can help to overcome many of the issues of house sharing and you won’t feel like you are imposing on someone else’s life.
#4 Retirement villages
Retirement villages are an excellent option for financially secure older people, as they can provide everything you need in later life, while still offering you independence. Retirement villages often comprise a mix of cottages, flats and compact homes, as well as a range of leisure facilities, such as gym or a pool.
Retirement village communities offer support and companionship when you want it, and privacy and peace when you don’t. Facilities vary from village to village and can include everything from a restaurant and social club to 24-hour nursing care on site.
Watch: Residents at a Retirement Village Provide Advice for Others Considering their Retirement Options
While retirement villages offer an excellent option for retirement, they are not for everyone. Some people find the communities a little stifling, while others may struggle with the costs of ground rent, service charges and other expenses. Retirement villages are also known for including having significant costs and fees which can dramatically reduce the amount you leave in your will for your children.
#5 Residential park homes
Residential park homes are similar to retirement villages, except that the structures are temporary rather than permanent buildings. That said, park homes have come a long way from the early days of ‘static caravans’, and modern designs include all your home comforts, such as central heating, en-suite facilities and double glazing. They often look and feel just like a compact cottage or lodge home.
Want to know more? Read The Essential Guide to Buying a Residential Park Home
Park homes are usually located in an attractive area, and are often restricted to residents over 55, creating a strong sense of community within the park. If you think this may be an option for you we recommend you read this guide to buying a residential park home.
On the downside, park homes can feel rather small and restrictive, especially if you have been used to a larger home. You will also have very few options to improve your chosen unit as the park layout will already be set preventing many home improvements. As with retirement village properties, park home sales can come with significant charges and penalties so check your contract carefully before you sign.
#6 Sheltered housing
Sheltered housing, also known as warden assisted living, is a community of flats or other retirement properties that are overseen by a warden or manager, who normally lives on the premises. According to Age UK, around 7% of older people live in sheltered accommodation. This type of housing will not provide nursing care or help with day to day living, but help will be on hand in an emergency situation, giving you and your relatives the peace of mind of knowing there is someone keeping an eye on you.
Sheltered housing schemes will usually have a 24-hour emergency call system, which can be operated from within each property, or via an emergency button worn by the resident.
Sheltered housing schemes will invariably have an age restriction for one or both partners, and this ensures that you will be living in a community of like-minded, similarly aged people, with no children or teens running around. However, there can be issues if your partner qualifies on age and you don’t, and your partner then passes away.
#7 Assisted living
Assisted living, or extra care housing, is the next stage up from sheltered accommodation. In this kind of scheme, you can get help with all kinds of daily tasks, from washing and dressing to cooking and cleaning. You will still remain independent, with your own separate home and front door, but you will enjoy much more support than just an emergency call button.
Many assisted living schemes offer a social side too, arranging trips and entertainment, as well as social gatherings within the scheme. Many have communal lounges where residents can get together informally if they do not want to be in their flat on their own. This can be a huge advantage for older people who are single, or who have lost a partner.
Of course, none of this comes for free, and you will find that the service charges for assisted living are significantly higher than sheltered accommodation. However, they are still much cheaper than moving to a care home.
#8 Care homes
If you are no longer comfortable living independently, then you can consider moving into a residential home. There are 4,699 nursing homes and 6,023 residential care homes in Britain, according to Age UK, housing 421,100 people. These vary from simple care homes, where staff will help with your daily needs, to nursing homes, which also provide qualified medical support.
Some nursing homes offer specialist care for people with dementia, providing a safe and comforting environment during this confusing time. To avoid having to move as your needs change, you may wish to consider a dual-registered home, which offers both standard and nursing care, and can therefore adapt to your requirements as you get older.
The biggest drawback of residential care is the cost, with Knight Frank research showing that the average cost in 2016 was £726 per week, rising to £897 in the South East. Unless you have a generous pension, these prices, amounting to almost £38,000p.a., can quickly erode your personal wealth and savings and severely restrict both your lifestyle and any inheritance you planned to leave.
#9 Renting or buying
When it comes to retirement living, one of the biggest decisions is whether to rent or buy, although you may not even have the option. Knight Frank’s research shows that while 25% of older people would like to buy their retirement property, the current housing stock only provides for 2.7% of them to do so. For every retirement unit that is available to buy, there are three available to rent.
Renting can be a serious worry for older people who have spent their lives enjoying the security and freedom of being owner-occupiers.
That said, if you sell your former family home and plan well for your retirement, renting can free up significant sums to help you enjoy your golden years. Instead of having all your hard earned cash tied up in your property for someone else to enjoy when you are gone, you can go SKI-ing, or spending the kids' inheritance right now.
#10 Sell up and see the world
If the idea of SKI-ing appeals to you, then perhaps you don’t need a retirement home at all. Many more adventurous older people are selling up and setting off to see the world. With budget airlines and cheap online hotels or Air BnB homes, you could find that it is more affordable to travel than it is to stay put, taking in a new city or country every week and making lots of new friends along the way.
For a more relaxed way of seeing the world, you could simply take up permanent residence on board a cruise ship, with everything provided right on your doorstep, from meals to medical support, shows to cinemas.
It is not the cheapest retirement living option, but it may not be as expensive as you think. According to a study by Dr Lee Lindquist, from Northwestern University, living on a cruise ship can work out better value than assisted living or a care home. Planet Cruise agrees, claiming that cruise living costs almost £6,000 less per year than the same lifestyle in London, and over £13,000 less than New York.
Summary & Wrap-up
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