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Retirement housing: residents’ experiences

(NF69)

Overview

Based on information gathered from focus groups and responses to detailed questionnaires, the report paints a generally positive picture of residents’ experiences. It also identifies areas in which additional focus and attention to detail could improve those experiences.

From the report we can see that most residents of retirement housing are looking to continue an active and independent lifestyle for as long as possible, but realise that over time they may have a greater dependency on additional support. The report highlights the need for retirement housing to be designed to include facilities which allow those with reducing mobility to maintain an independent lifestyle for as long as possible; it also points to the desirability of additional support services being made available, such as cleaning and personal care.

Summary of content

Executive summary

The aim of this research was to identify whether private sector homes, which have been purpose-built for those aged 55 to 60 and over, are meeting the needs of residents.

Research involved residents of six privately-built retirement-style developments completed in the last five years, reflecting the full range of property types currently available in the retirement housing sector. The main findings of this research were:

Satisfaction levels are high

The research shows that residents’ needs are being met and that they are enjoying life in what are typically active communities; 86% said they love their experience of living in their home or enjoy it most of the time. Indeed, the most frequently mentioned benefit of life in a retirement development was the companionship and community spirit.

Common key requirements

Adaptable and flexible homes The retirement population is not one homogeneous group; initial active lifestyles may give way to evolving health and mobility needs which are difficult to predict, requiring homes and the services available to be adaptable and flexible.
Location and amenities
As with other residential markets, the location of the development remains the strongest single criterion affecting the decision to move, with proximity to amenities being important. The wish to downsize and reduce home maintenance are also key drivers for moving, together with wanting to be closer to family and having support services available.
Help with moving
The provision of services to help with the move is important, including legal services and removal assistance.
Social activities/caring environment
Other factors which contribute to a sense of well-being and satisfaction with the development are the range of social activities and community events available and a caring home or facility manager.
Supporting independent living
Those seeking to move to a retirement property wish to continue to live independently for as long as possible. Services provided as standard such as gardening and home maintenance are appreciated, and the availability of other services such as laundry and cleaning, which can be taken up as needed, is valued.

Recommendations for future improvement

Future developments need to address a number of issues to enhance the enjoyment of life for residents in these communities and ensure homes are as attractive as possible to buyers. Some of these issues are:

  • help with visualising the space if buying off-plan and consistent support with the purchase and move
  • improved car parking availability, especially for visitors
  • more consideration of the suitability of designs and layouts, particularly of kitchens and bathrooms, for the needs and abilities of typical residents
  • closer inspection to ensure high levels of quality, minimal defects and problem-free initial occupation of new homes
  • easy-to-use controls such as heating controls, with clear and easy-to-understand instructions and training sessions. These could be supplemented by face-to-face training
  • more storage space or flexible storage options such as shared facilities or lockers for suitcases for example
  • sufficient communal laundry provision and options to install washing machines and dishwashers in kitchens
  • provision of service or dual-function lifts and clearly defined arrangements for removals
  • improved waste management services for less mobile users
  • availability of handyman services
  • reasonable exit fees or no exit fees.

The opportunities for developing homes for the growing retirement sector are clear. Encouraging older people to move to attractive, well designed purposebuilt homes with support services available for the later stages of their lives will also release family homes back into the stock, cascading supply down through all levels and requirements.

One important point raised frequently during the focus groups is the need for communities to be perceived as independent, active, tailor-made environments (not care homes) by potential purchasers, in which those approaching, at or beyond retirement age aspire to live.