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Retirement homes and villages haven't always been as fashionable as they are today. There's a concern that ‘retirement home' means sheltered housing, or a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn't take into consideration how the consumers buying retirement properties would actually want to live.
Thankfully, in recent years, a number of specialist housebuilding companies have been extremely active in providing new retirement homes for private ownership, which are specifically designed and operated to address the needs of older people who want to maintain their independence while having the peace of mind that assistance and care are close at hand when required.
Reaching retirement is a good time to assess how your current home's working for you. Is it too big? Too expensive to run? Too far away from friends and family? Too urban?
Pauline Turnbull, sales director at Redrow Homes (Midlands), says the answer to many of these questions may be to downsize: "Research by Saga suggests that a fifth of homeowners in their 50s are considering moving somewhere smaller to beat the cost of living. Our homes at Church Gresley in Derbyshire, Priory Fields, are designed to be 40% more energy efficient than homes built 10 years ago, saving householders money on their fuel bills, and are insulated with double glazing and central heating as standard."
Saving on bills strikes a chord with most homeowners. But to be a nice place to live, a retirement home or village has got to offer more than statistics as a selling point.
A lot of this is down to community integration. The more amenities retirement housing can offer, and the more community links, the better. It's an area housebuilders are starting to get better at, in providing consumers with more choice.
"Some developers place far too much reliance on the bricks and mortar rather than what is provided around services, amenities, care and how residents want to live in their retirement," said Richard Davis, chief executive officer of retirement village developer LifeCare Residences in a recent interview in Show House magazine. "But building a retirement village is much more than just building property. The location has to be right - most retirement village residents won't move more than five miles from their old home and want to stay close to everything that's familiar and reassuring - family, friends, doctors, shops and clubs."
All McCarthy & Stone developments (the company is the leading new-build retirement property specialist) dotted around the UK are located centrally, and always located close to a range of local amenities to encourage buyers to engage with the communities they live in. Residents, after all, like to shop locally and use public transport, as well as being close to friends and family where possible.
Buyers don't need to feel they're buying uninspiring homes either. Bramshott Place Village in Hampshire, built by Urban Renaissance Villages has recently been netted an ‘Excellent' rating under BREEAM certification for sustainable design and construction - the highest level achievable. The whole village has been built avoiding materials with Global Warming Potential (GWP) - an ideal choice if you're concerned about your carbon footprint - and has many eco-friendly features, such as low-energy lighting and an impressive drainage system. The development also features fun things, such as a fitness suite, restaurant, shop and healthcare facilities.