When you’re not quite ready for a care home, but don’t need your big former family home anymore, a retirement village can offer alternative retirement living options that are specifically designed for people just like you.
They provide a caring community of like-minded souls, where much of the hard work is done for you, from washing the windows to mowing the lawn, leaving you free to enjoy the best retirement living.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what you can expect in a retirement village and see how much richer they can make your retirement move.
Finding the right home for your retirement
Like many older people, you may want to downsize (or "right-size") now your kids have grown and gone. Big family homes are hard to heat, expensive to maintain and can become more difficult to manage as your mobility becomes reduced.
Unfortunately, smaller homes are in short supply in the UK housing market, and older buyers often find themselves in competition with young families.
Even if you are successful, smaller homes may still not be right for you, as they are usually built on estates or in developments that are designed around families, with noisy play areas and sports fields rather than the kind of facilities you would prefer.
And you’re not alone in your struggle to find the right sized home. Dedicated retirement living housing is rare in the UK, with the New Policy Institute estimating that of the 27 million homes in Britain, only 612,000 are retirement units. This equates to just 56 retirement units per 1000 pensioners in England, with even lower numbers in Scotland and Wales.
No wonder so many people end up in old age homes in the UK.
This is where retirement villages come in, offering better retirement housing in purpose-built communities designed to suit the needs of an older market, with right-sized homes and appropriate facilities that provide everything you want for a full and satisfying retirement.
What is a retirement village?
Retirement villages offer an independent lifestyle, backed by a range of support services and leisure facilities, often based around a central social hub. It’s just like village life used to be in the old days, with a friendly welcome wherever you go, and lots of activities and socialising to get involved in.
Unlike moving to private retirement homes, you maintain your independence and own your own home, usually a cottage, bungalow or apartment, but also get the peace of mind that there is help on hand whenever you need it.
Most retirement villages have maintenance staff that not only looks after the village and the common areas, but also helps the residents with anything they need. Some even have a concierge service, and all have emergency assistance on call 24 hours a day.
Where did they start?
The retirement village concept began in the United States, in warmer climes such as Arizona and Florida. Today, as many as 6% of over 65s in America live in retirement communities, compared to just 0.7% in the UK. Retirement villages are also popular in Australia and New Zealand, where as many as 12% of retired people live this way.
The concept has only been around in the UK for since the 1980s, but it is growing in popularity, with the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) estimating that there are 20,000 people living in more than 400 retirement communities. They usually have a minimum age of between 55 and 65.
Independent living with like-minded people
For many residents, the biggest attraction is the community, because in a retirement village, you are never short of company and companionship, whether you’re chatting over morning coffee or pairing up for bridge. Loneliness can be a real problem for many older people who stay isolated in their own home, but in a retirement village, you can take part, or take time apart, as suits you.
Most retirement communities have a lively social scene, with a full program of clubs and societies, events and activities. These are run by residents for residents and range from tea dances to quiz nights, theatre trips to films. Some even have their own am-dram societies, which create shows for the rest of the village to enjoy.
More open than you think
There is a common misconception that retirement developments are exclusive, gated communities, where no one goes in or out, but this is far from the case. While they do have appropriate security to protect their residents, you, and your family and friends, are free to come and go as you please. Some residents even lock up for the winter and head off to the sun, knowing their UK home is safe and secure.
Visitors are welcome, and many retirement villages even have guest suites to hire so they can stay over. There may be a lower age limit on residents, but young grandchildren will always raise a smile, bringing fresh energy and joy to the community. If you want to bring your pets, you need to check the policy of your chosen village, as this can vary from an open door policy to a complete ban.
What facilities can you expect?
The retirement living facilities vary from village to village, but usually include:
- A ‘country club’ style social hub with café, bar and restaurant
- Leisure facilities such as a gym, spa and pool
- Sports such as bowling, tennis, croquet and snooker
- Staff on call 24 hours a day for emergencies
- Staff available to help with day to day needs
- Gardeners to maintain both landscaped areas and your own garden
- Maintenance teams to make repairs and help with upkeep
- A concierge to look after residents’ needs
With different villages offering different facilities, it is vital that you take your time and choose carefully, considering all your options. After all, this is where you are going to spend the rest of your life, so it’s important to ensure it is absolutely right for you. We discuss the options in depth in our guide to choosing the right retirement village.
Future proofing your retirement
Because the concept is quite new, retirement villages in the UK tend to be new-build and very well maintained, so you won’t have to do anything to bring your new home up to scratch. And with your service charge covering ongoing maintenance, you won’t have to do anything to keep it that way either. This is often a stark contrast to ageing family homes that can be in need of repair and modernisation - and are only going to get worse as time goes on.
Many retirement complexes are also able to offer additional practical and medical care services as your health deteriorates and your needs increase. This can range from assistance with washing, dressing and preparing meals, to round the clock nursing care, all provided in your own home within the village.
By choosing a location that offers these services, you can rest assured that you won’t have to move again as you get older. However, all of these come at a cost, and these charges can soon mount up, so it is important to consider how flexible your finances will be in the future to pay for such care. Check out our companion article for more information on the cost of retirement villages.
Start your new life now
Moving to a retirement village can give you a whole new lease of life, with a new home, new friends and a new sense of security and peace of mind. It can make your retirement so much simpler and more fulfilling than you ever thought possible, and all without the burden of maintaining an oversized family home.
Understandably, however, many people are reluctant to put their homes on the market, because they can’t face the months of uncertainty. Selling on the open market means endless viewings invading your privacy, the disruption and cost of repairs to bring your old home up to modern standards, as well as the heart-breaking haggling that can slash the price at the last minute.
With the UK housing market sluggish, especially around larger homes, a house sale can take many frustrating months, and you could even lose out on your dream retirement home to someone else while you wait.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to avoid the stress, hassle and uncertainty of a traditional sale, we might be your perfect answer. We can buy your house quickly in a smooth, direct, and straight-forward sale. With a no obligation offer within 2-3 days and completion arranged to suit your timeframes, you can get on with your new life right now.
Time is precious enough in retirement without wasting it trying to sell your old home, so call us now on 0800 133 7687 and see how quickly we can get you moving to the retirement village of your choice.
Read more: Visit our Retirement & Downsizing Hub
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