Community Retirement Villages – next steps

This is a drawing together of my series of blogs about a new form of  Community Retirement Village.

It has not been easy to distill the essence of thirty years work building and then managing a new type of retirement housing in the U.K.   It didn’t start with a well thought out 30 year plan, nor did we even have a road map of where we were heading when we set off in 1987.

I had a great team around me and we were all agreed that we could do better than the then current provision of care and support for older people in later life.   The vision of what we were ultimately going to do only emerged over time with the benefit of experience and naivety in equal measure.

We had little money to play with, but we grabbed every opportunity as it arose.   We also had some benevolent partners, without whom we could not have flourished.    We owed a lot to Coventry Churches Housing Association, the housing organisation we grew out of and we adopted much of their thinking, particularly on the employment and management of staff.   (See the storey of Princethope Court, which you can find in the Archive, to understand how our early ideas were born there).   

In operational terms there were few footprints to follow in the early years, but treading in fresh snow is great fun.       We made it up as we went along but we were united in our intention to find a better model of housing and care for older people than the ones that had been developed in the past.      Our vision was to provide “Better Lives for Older People”.

The lessons we learned over all those exciting and challenging years were :-  ” TO BUILD MORE “COMMUNITY VILLAGES” and here are some of the next key steps :-


It’s no good expecting or relying on Government funding to make this possible.    Elderly people themselves have sufficient funds tied up in their existing housing, providing these resources can be unlocked and that can’t be just about downsizing.    A new financial model is the key to giving access to retirement housing and care to more people.    Whilst downsizing is an option for the lucky few, shared ownership has far greater potential to reach more people.    Neither should we forget that some people only have sufficient resources to rent.    In all cases people also need to be left with sufficient assets to access care in the future should they need it.   This suggests that people should be able to trade the equity in their house for exchange for care.    Either at the outset, when they first purchase the accommodation, or later if their care requirements change.  The Continuing Care Model used in the USA uses an up front, non-refundable premium to cover the cost of housing and all future care needs.    Some adaptation of this approach would significantly reduce the move in entry price, but would need careful and transparent explanation at the outset.


Retirement villages in the UK are still a relatively new phenomenon.    They are often seen as “ghettos of older people” or “large nursing homes” or “very expensive luxury housing with high services charges”.    They sometimes are any or all of those things.    In the promotion of a new village, it is important to address each of these issues directly ——- “they will become ghettos if the village residents shut themselves away”—— “most of the residents will be fit and able but they will see some high levels of frailty within their community”——” it is an expensive option compared to staying in your own home with no service charges and limited support”.

The unique selling point of retirement villages is more about the lifestyle than it is about the accommodation.   There are many more opportunities in a retirement community to participate in a range of activities and to access care and support than they would be in an individual home alone.


This is not a rural idle it is an urban village.  The village needs to be located close to “chimney pots”, because generally people don’t want to move far from their existing neighbourhood.   Whilst the site needs to be level, it is also important that the village is outward looking and all the accommodation benefits from good views beyond the site itself.

The individual dwellings need to have generous space standards because people will usually have come from larger accommodation in their previous house.     At the same time there needs to be a variety of dwelling sizes to offer as wide a purchase price range as possible.


Once the village is up and running, it is essential ever after to live up to the promises of the initial marketing campaign.    Staying true to the values of quality, lifestyle, innovation and fun.    Residents’ involvement in the running of the village is vital and listening and acting on residents’ views should be part of the village’s daily life.

The village offer should be extended to people in the surrounding community and partnerships should be built with local organisations.


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2 Responses to Community Retirement Villages – next steps

  1. david w freeman says:

    Community retirement villages-next stage
    A very thoughtful and enjoyable blog to read. Now to reflect and comment upon, as a resident of one of the retirement villages that John through the Extracare team brought into being, and indeed life.
    My beliefs; and John’s vision still hold true under the current Extracare Charitable Trust of Coventry. Everything is not all plain sailing: However we as residents are regularly invited to comment, contribute to village life by, actively taking part in the philosophy of the management structure as a volunteer, participant in activities and hobbies, trips of interest and amusement/entertainment, and in general the way of life for the more elderly [But young at heart], by either taking part or organising events within the retirement village community, with fellow residents together with family and those who are ‘FRIENDS’ of the village, with well-wishers of the retirement village.
    The vision is true to life, and it is for us all to enjoy and encourage the ‘Ethos’
    I now reply, comment with respect to the paragraphs as headlined by John.
    This aspect is very personal, and it is a decision that is not taken lightly, and does in some circumstances offer a form of ‘financial risk’ that has to be understood, discussed with close family and the financial awareness team of the ‘Extracare Team’. It is an arrangement/contract that has to acceptable to all parties!
    John alludes to an American model of sorts that infers a non-returnable premium. Here the financial decisions are very personal, and one if one approaches the ‘ETHOS’ of a retirement village concept with an open mind, one must project oneself forward in life?
    I retired at the age of 60 with my wife 58. We moved into the retirement village at the respective ages of 65-63. We have considered long and hard of what life may offer us as UK nationals? And as individuals, and as a family? Having witnessed and experienced the loss of both our parents, and the hardships of the sole surviving parent, when we were remote from family roots and siblings.
    Or main consideration was our own children, and the ability to remain in life both financially and health wise independent of their personal life styles. WE looked hard and talked with our daughters about the opportunities of the retirement village, and it’s ‘Ethos’.
    The retirement village offered property/accommodation at a cost with a weekly levy for overheads-[external building maintenance/ heating lighting and water/ common areas communal upkeep/ estate; gardening upkeep etc.]. Once these costs have been digested, and accepted one is left with the ‘WHY’? And what style of living does one wish for oneself?
    The goals and ideals of the Extracare Charitable Trust were at inception, and still are visionary and excellent, and achievable if one wishes to believe!!
    From my/our personal viewpoint was a lifestyle amidst likeminded people, activities of a physical and mental agility with a good deal of opportunities to take part in, as a volunteer, a user, and what is reassuring is the ‘Soft Touch’ of management and supportive framework offering ‘wellbeing advice/ physical physiotherapy schemes in a well-equipped gymnasium; Not for getting the entertainment/activities for the whole village community can gather within and enjoy as one Co-hessive unit.
    One aspect which has a major consideration was and is the security policy for the estate as a whole, and the support offered as ‘domiciliary care’, where one after initiating an alarm {Actual or initiative} for help, one can discuss and utilise the domiciliary care/support packages [various levels], until one is again mobile and to some extent ‘INDEPENDENT’!
    All the above aspects help one achieve peace of mind, and in reality ‘independent living’- The original desired intentions of the Extracare Charitable Trust.
    The talk- the walk? Here as a retirement village ages the organisation have a responsibility morally! To blend the vision with the actual requirements within the political and elderly mind sets of the UK.
    A village to be vibrant needs a core estate of residential apartments/flats/etc. of a total number that represent of gives opportunities as John has highlighted to rent/share/lease householders, with a total number of residents who are fit/mobile, or less mobile whom can support a financially viable domiciliary care system. The total numbers of residents should be able to keep the auxiliary services provide for independent living [such as restaurant/café/shops-general or particular/hairdressing etc.: meeting rooms/reception/IT common facilities/ dedicated craft rooms and activity rooms, or a quiet room such as a library.
    The key to this achievement is to put it ‘CRUDELY’- ‘’DEAD MENS SHOES’’ and as an active and positive village an age and mobility profile which has to be upheld as residents pass on [die], by the village management on reallocating accommodation. Society in general in the UK is aging, and the generations coming up to retirement may be approaching some 78 years of age, and while the vision of Extracare is something to achieve, some of these reaching their ‘personal golden years’ may dream of an Extracare Retirement Village; while in reality may need a full blown nursing home and all the horrors that may bestowed on the holder of a dream?
    True a retirement village is not a ‘RETREAT’ set aside in a rural English Idly: However the estate if correctly conceived can and does give space to each of its residents. As one ages it is not necessary to have huge accommodation spaces; however provided the smallest accommodation can and does retain a kitchen/wet-room/bathroom/ bedroom, sitting room, and some in built cupboard space, a hall/vestibule and an individual front door: Then the retirement village should be able to provide the overall feeling of spaciousness along and outside each residents accommodation such as the communal areas, and one such space it is most satisfying when all the residents and staff can collect/socialise as one communal group at times of a major celebration.
    The average up to date 2017 of a residential home/nursing home with respect to residents is some 50-80 persons (residents). I sincerely believe a retirement village has to encompass some 325 to 500 residents of all abilities to make it a going concern both socially and financially.
    Here lies the ‘’RUB’’? the existing residents with a futuristic management structure have to guide the retirement village of the future, should reflect and look out into UK Society, and not bae single ship of life waiting for the crew [residents] and officers[ management-staff] to die off and fail to reach a deep held of what life can be like???

  2. The last paragraph should read as follows-Apologies!!! David

    Here lies the ‘’RUB’’? the existing residents with a futuristic management structure have to guide the retirement village of the future, should reflect and look out into UK Society, and not be a single ship of life waiting for the crew [residents] and officers[ management-staff] to die off and fail to reach a deep held view of what life can be like???

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