I have built some ground-breaking Retirement Villages in my working career at ExtraCare Charitable Trust. I am pleased to say that many retirement villages have followed in their footsteps. But, are they transforming the understanding of housing and care for older people in this country? The honest answer is not yet, or at least only for some of the people who were lucky enough to move in.
So what has to be done to make this model more widespread throughout the UK and sustainable in financial and managerial terms? There seems to me to be four basic issues that have to be resolved:-
- There needs to be a focus on later-lifestyle opportunities, not housing and care. Housing and care tend to be the focus of developers, but they are not the key interests of the residents when they first move in. They are more interested in finding a new lifestyle in retirement and indeed, the lack of this in new villages is the reason that many people don’t contemplate moving. Encouraging this understanding is central to the marketing of new villages, but it is often overlooked, or not acted upon when the new village is opened.
- This is not a small-scale problem. (See my earlier blog which you can find by clicking on this link – https://grumblesmiles.co.uk/2017/08/29/yes-we-need-more-homes-with-care/). To deliver a lifestyle transformation for many older people in communities throughout Britain, will need substantial capital investment and adequate on-going revenue funds. Realistically, successive Governments have failed to do this for years and I can only see sufficient future funds coming mainly from residents’ own resources. This will need new and innovative financial approaches, which are not dependant on public funds. It will also need honest, transparent and forthright explanation to residents and their families !
- An holistic community wide approach with voluntary sector support. The new village needs to reach deep into its surrounding neighbourhood and not in any way be exclusive or gated. This idea is not always welcomed by the village residents themselves, who once they have paid to get inside like the idea of exclusivity. Nonetheless, there are many older people in the wider community who could enjoy the village facilities and bring in additional revenue.
- Enlightened management, listening and acting on residents comments and needs, is an essential ingredient of village sustainability. Much of the day to day running of village facilities will be supported by the residents as volunteers. They will in return be entitled to play a key role in the governance of the village,
OVER THE NEXT FEW WEEKS THERE WILL NOW FOLLOW A SERIES OF BLOGS ON INDIVIDUAL ISSUES AND HOW TO FUND AND MAKE THEM SUSTAINABLE.