Community Retirement Villages

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 –    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,


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7 Responses to Community Retirement Villages

  1. davidwfreeman237 says:

    This blog I find very pertinent and relevant to ‘what does one expect’? And what do we do as a society-social group expect when we are that older generation?
    It is all very interesting, and my initial comments with respect to the four comments/paragraphs discussed by John, I list below.
    From the top as John has put them, I leave you the reader to rank their importance to you personally.
    • The focus on later life is shelter with security: However if all is equal in our society, and we remain both law abiding and honest citizens paying our dues/rent/taxes etc. as expected then we must follow, or at least consider John’s observations on a “NEW LIFE” are important, and I feel close to one’s heart; beliefs of what life we would wish for ourselves, stimulated by our fellow man (villagers), or social activities and interest both in their participation and organising. This social interaction within the retirement village and the wider local community, requires encouragement to be broadened, and not just tied to the older generation [above the age of state pension], but to all citizens over 50, to help them see and join in into what society can accomplish, with the correct guidance.
    • The next point made is that this new vision of an old age lifestyle will need substantial investment, both in terms of capital upkeep-Maintenance payments. The underlying comment is that the majority of the monies will come from the residents, and prospective residents. The underlying question to be asked is-‘If we can as a wise community invest in this type of development is how can these structure and accommodation be utilised after the current ‘’social bulge’’ in retirement age citizens has passed (say 2050) or do we the UK expect our elderly generation to shadow the current population (statistics) census, or will we have, or become a country of the elderly, and how do we as a nation generate wealth to support not only the working population but the over 50’s and the elderly? How do we invest in the nation? We have up to date had capital from the private sector to build and provide housing for the younger generation, basically within the city centres: Two bedroom, one bedroom, and studio flats all within striking distance of a café and club culture (A Good time) for the young to enjoy: However the chickens have come home to roost so to speak! The young cannot buy into housing and accommodation, as a growing family with children (the future of the nation), because we as a society made an unwise investment –may I say! Both in culture, social awareness and accommodation should we have concentrated firstly on the elderly, and freed up their existing family accommodation, and encouraged the younger generation to invest in family housing? [The proverbial cart before the horse]. There is no easy answer; but the existing one bedroom/two bedroom/studio flat in the appropriate social surroundings may have been more beneficial for the elderly, with a little more fore thought??] There is no easy answer, However we are left in the immediate future with young families in inappropriate accommodation, and the elderly in undesirable accommodation, which is costing the Nation ‘’us all’’ in social, health and welfare payments. Someone somewhere, or all of us are naive, or greedy, or even both.
    • Point three holistic approach I would support, and as a pensioner, self-help and some voluntary work in one’s own village to help it become an independent way of living is to be applauded, for the good of the individual and local society, including the individuals immediate family
    • Point four enlighten management is all ways welcome, and as is the active involvement of each resident to be encouraged for a happy and active retirement village.

  2. Alex Robinson says:

    In my opinion, the name “village” when applied to a retirement complex is a bit of a misnomer.

    A traditional village has some form of focal point – village or church hall or Post Office or other store. Generally speaking, most residents know one another not just as someone they recognise but as a person with family and personal details known to many. There is a sense of belonging to a community and mutual respect. They have lived there for quite a long time.

    The residents of a retirement complex are much more like passengers on a cruise ship – they live in the same building and may even recognise one another. Many activities may be available for those who wish to avail themselves of (and possibly pay extra for.) The only focus is the reception area and notice board. They probably only live there for a few years and are unlikely to get to know most of the people there. As you say in the blog, they probably consider that they pay for the priveledge of belonging to a “special” place.

    Many of the older people I talk to want to spend as much as they can of their later years in their own homes – not in a complex, attractive as it may seem to some. Their homes will need modifications – stair lifts, alarm call systems and hand rails. Plus there may need to be visits by carers on a daily basis. Surely the financial scheme we need should provide for more of this, probably at less costs than new complexes. Your funding method may still be relevant but I am not convince that the so-called “village” is the best way. Of course, following David’s comments, the housing stock will still be there for the next generation.

    Meanwhile, our older folk can remain in the communities they know and are known in.

    • john graham says:

      I agree with you Alex that the majority of older people would prefer to live out their lives in there home in the wider community. I am not suggesting moving to a retirement village is a universal answer, just that there needs to be more of them, to at least make them one option option in later life.
      I will expand on the wider community role retirement villages should play in a later blog and will be interested in what you think.

  3. davidwfreeman237 says:

    I am willing to listern and learn, and a retirement complex is not for all? However John’s vision and provision of a complex both in fabric and social engineering at the initial concept, leaves the residents villagers to be inovative and resourceful in developing life in a concept called formally a retirement village,and based on the atributes you so wish for ALex. Our focal point is nebulus and based not only on hard points of contact, but the soft social intercourse of communial activites and meetings.
    There are many references on these blogs to the as ‘in built’ design meeting places, shops, eating and recreational spaces supporting staff, for you to consider! I would with respect suggest you visit an Retirement Village both large and small, as operated and designed to the concepts of the ”Extracare Charities Trust’ Coventry. For your information the retirement villages centre on an operational circle of some say 100 miles radius from HQ Coventry (Originally they were the Coventry Churches Housing Trust/charity??)
    Before you visit any of the villages which are open to the (any) visitor, inquisitive who wish to enquire about life in a retirement village, I respectfully suggest you look at the Extracare Charitable trust web site: However for the feelings and reception of residents, you may have to visit or volunteer, to be in an actual retirement village: The complexes as describe are not the accepted norm retirement complexes, or ‘care homes’
    It is all in the mind, please do not close off your forgone conclusions, please suck it and see, if that is possible to appriciate the life style promoted. Any Extracare Charitable Trust Village Manager, is approachable for futher information, or HQ in Coventry, by telephone call or web site comments.
    I trust I have been informative and not too ‘bombastic”? David.
    ps we are afloat on lifes voyage, but you and fellow residents are the captains of there own destiny, we are all neighbours and friends, whether we get along is up to what each of us is willing to put in?

    • john graham says:

      Hopefully we have started a discussion here in the UK’s first virtual retirement village.
      If we are going to transform housing and care for older people, it certainly has got to be a lot more than a fleet of cruise ships 😀

      • davidwfreeman237 says:

        be it an admiral or a shephard, it is all about giving the ‘Flock’ the choice? is it not. Captain!

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