News: Retirement villages bring multi-way benefits

Retirement villages, a relatively new development in the UK, are proving popular with older people as places to live, help out community service providers and make more homes available to the housing market. It seems a win-win investment all round.

Attracted by having 'your own front door' in homes especially designed for later life and with on-site care and support available day and night, older people also have more opportunities to make friends and to lead an active life, according to research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The research also found evidence that retirement villages were good news for local communities, by helping health and social care providers to deliver health and community services more efficiently. On-site care and support in retirement villages can lead to fewer hospital admissions and promote earlier discharge, generating cost savings for acute hospital trusts.

Moreover, as older people move into homes specially developed for them, significant numbers of family homes, previously under-occupied, can become available to ease housing shortages.

Retirement villages can also stimulate local economies by creating jobs and by residents’ support of local shops and facilities.

The study, by Karen Croucher, research fellow at the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York, also looked at how retirement villages can be made affordable to older people with different levels of income.

Some schemes were addressing the issue of affordability by offering properties that could be rented, part-owned or bought outright. Research has found evidence of older people willing to forgo home-ownership, not only to release equity to fund their care needs, but also to free themselves from the responsibilities of owning a property.

As yet there are only a few retirement villages in the UK, examples being Hartrigg Oaks in York, Westbury Fields in Bristol, and Ryfields in Warrington. They usually have more than 100 dwellings, allowing certain economies of scale, and for the provision of amenities such as cafés, fitness suites, and craft rooms. Older people living in the wider community can often access these amenities too.

Karen Croucher said: "The study shows that retirement villages have great potential to expand the choices of living arrangements for older people as well as having benefits not just confined to those who live there."

"But perhaps the strongest messages are from the residents of retirement villages themselves as studies consistently show high levels of satisfaction with the combination of independence, security, support and companionship that the schemes offer."

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