The key issue with retirement villages is that they should offer people a range of new opportunities in later life. So many of the alternative retirement housing models are perceived by older people as a last resort option. Residential care homes are the last place anybody wants to go to, no matter how good they might be in terms of the care they offer. Sadly, many of them are rightly renowned for offering no real care at all. The public sector sheltered housing model and its private alternative of retirement housing is focused on “safety and security” but generally offers no significant support for health and care requirements. It is essential that Community Retirement Villages significantly transcend these other models.
In a retirement village you are living independently in your own home, whether you rent it, are a part share-owner or own it outright. The important thing is that you can live the life you want and can join in as much or a little as you like. In this environment, it is hard to be lonely because so many people around you are in the same situation themselves. The host of activities are moulded around the skills and interests of the residents and you are free to take part in an active community life.
Volunteering is a central part of the retirement village culture which promotes an ethos of neighbourliness and helping each other. In turn that means that residents are at the forefront of the reception and manage many of the facilities such as the coffee bar, the library, the craft room and many of the activities. They also support staff in running the shop, the fitness suite, the well-being programme, the catering and the dementia support. Many of these examples are more fully described in my earlier blogs which you can find by clicking on “Retirement Housing” in the TOPICS list.
Another essential feature of retirement villages has to be a focus on “well-being”. This is the reverse side of the”safety and security” model of retirement housing. It offers people the encouragement to look after their own health by giving them the support of a well-being nurse to monitor their own health and the opportunity of a fitness suite to stay fit or to provide rehabilitation after a period of ill health.
Finally, as you age in the community, if your frailty increases, you are able to access additional support with housekeepingand care. You will also be provided with professional support to ensure that you are able to access the full range of welfare benefits which are often underclaimed because of their complexity.
Establishing this culture of an active lifestyle, volunteering and promotion of well-being is fundamental to differentiating the Retirement Village from the previous models. Without these elements the village is just a large sheltered housing scheme. The culture needs to be primed and encouraged by a skilled team of enabling staff. I will expand on this in my next post on this subject.