IT IS now widely understood that we have an ageing population in
the UK. What is less clear is how society will provide and care for
the over-65s, who, in 20 years' time, will make up 23 per cent of
the UK population - up from 17 per cent today.
A report by the estate agents Knight Frank, Retirement
Housing 2014, says: "Housing for the elderly will make up less
than three per cent of total delivered housing in years to
This is particularly felt in the lack of appropriate
accommodation for people who have retired, and want to plan for
their long-term care needs, but who still want to retain as much
independence as possible: those who want to downsize, for example,
but are decades away from a care home.
The retirement-housing market is trying to expand rapidly to
meet the increasing demand, and the new developments are a far cry
from warden-assisted accommodation or care homes.
"The idea of 'retirement housing' in the UK is sometimes
misunderstood, with many assuming that the only choice of housing
with some level of care is a care home," the head of UK residential
research for Knight Frank, Gráinne Gilmore, says. "[But] there are
now many developments purely for those aged over 55, [as well as]
retirement villages, which offer varying levels of care, and which
may have a care home on site."
RICHMOND VILLAGES is one such company. It develops large
"resort-style" retirement villages that have a range of on-site
amenities, including restaurants and bars, arts-and-crafts rooms,
hair salons, cafés, and shops. Some "villages" even offer residents
an on-site wellness spa and gym, bowling green, and swimming
"Although I don't believe we will see anything on the same scale
of the US, where some retirement villages will have 1000-plus
residents, and their own golf course, customers do demand
high-quality facilities [plus] the reassurance that care is
available should their circumstances change in the future. It's a
way of retaining independence, but getting the help required," the
head of marketing at Richmond Villages, David Reaves, says.
Richmond Villages - which has five retirement villages, and two
in development - requires residents to purchase leasehold
apartments, and pay a service charge to cover the use and
maintenance of the site and its facilities, besides some basic
care-services. This charge currently ranges from £70 to £120 per
week, depending on location.
As care needs grow, all sites offer residents the option of
paying for help with food, laundry, and cleaning, etc., in a
serviced-apartment package - and, if needed, for on- site
domiciliary care. Each village also incorporates a centrally
located care home for residents who need more support.
IN THE report from Knight Frank, one in four respondents said
that they would consider moving into some kind of "retirement
community" in the future. And Christian housing providers are also
taking notice of this increased interest: such as MHA (Methodist
Homes), which is currently constructing a 168-plot retirement
village in Pickering, to supplement its first village community in
MHA still offers MHA-run care and dementia homes, retirement
apartments, and assisted-living packages, but, the housing and care
manager Rebecca Valons says, "we have needed to evolve with older
people's changing needs and wants. It is clear that many older
people wish to retain their independence in their own homes for as
long as possible."
Mickle Hill, which is due to open this winter, is set within 11
acres of land, and comprises 168 bungalows and apartments (on a
bought, shared-ownership, or rental basis), an on-site care team,
and amenities including a café bistro, shop, salon, library and IT
suite, gym, and cinema room.
"We are keen that all residents should be able to choose the
right balance of privacy and company that suits them personally,"
Ms Valons says. "People can choose to participate as and when they
wish; there is always the option of daily contact; so nobody need
ever feel isolated or alone."
All of MHA's residential settings have a chaplain. "This means
that people will have someone to talk to, as they may not want to
talk to the manager or the people they see socially. Even if they
don't follow a faith, they can still benefit from having someone
they can confide in."
ANOTHER new player in the market is the Bethel Retirement
Villages Group, a Christian company and a subsidiary of a global
developer of hotels and luxury residential properties, which is
currently building a 117-apartment and maisonette complex (on a buy
or rental basis) in Herne Bay, Kent.
The retirement village, set to open in 2017, and offering
library, clubhouse, spa, and sports facilities, will also offer 45
assisted-living care-suites, as well as a specialist on-site
dementia-care unit, if care needs change.
The Pilgrim's Friend Society is also investing in village-style
schemes, where residents occupy their own apartments and use
facilities at their own convenience - and yet it is also continuing
to invest in its more traditional communities, where the residents
are more likely to live in one building, coming together daily in
shared communal spaces.
"I was talking to one chap the other day who had chosen to come
with his wife, who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
They didn't want to be separated, but they needed the care team
right there, so this was a good option for them," the media and
communications manager, Louise Morse, says.
Miriam Gibb has been a resident at a Pilgrim's Friend Christian
retirement community in Bedford, Dorothea Court, for the past three
years. "I am originally from Bedford, but I had lived in Zimbabwe
for 54 years," she says. "When my husband died, I came back to
England, and didn't know a soul.
"But I had seen Pilgrim's Friend homes advertised, and I said to
myself, 'I wouldn't mind retiring in one of those places.' Because,
you see, it's hard to set up a new home when you're over 70 and on
your own. So the Lord has been kind to me in bringing me here.
"Then, last year, I married my new husband, Bill, who is also a
resident here. We are musicians; we met because we both play the
organ and piano, and we were playing in local churches in the
village. We were both just serving the Lord, and he brought us
together. He is 82, and I'm 80; so we're a pretty unique
"There are five buildings of flats here, but each block has a
dining room. My husband and I cook some of our own meals, but we
always have a cooked lunch, every day, in the dining room, with our
"It's really wonderful - you step out of your door, and everyone
is a Christian. We're like a family. We have a communion service
every week; we always sing, and someone comes to preach. It's a
beautiful thing. As well as the times of worship, there are other
activities, such as the craft afternoon on Thursdays.
"There are not many lonely people here, and very few arguments.
It is good for us, as we have to learn to tolerate people from
other denominations. I can't pretend it's always easy, because life
isn't like that; it's not a bed of roses. But this is a happy
THE College of St Barnabas is a charity that serves the large
number of clergy who are now retiring. The warden, Fr Howard Such,
says that: "Fewer than ever of these clergy are able to acquire
sufficient capital during their working lives to buy their own
homes; the recent economic climate has greatly reduced the value of
the limited savings they may have achieved, and, in common with
many other professions, pension provision has been reduced. As a
result, retirement is a cause for anxiety for many rather than an
The college also subscribes to a close-knit model of community,
which "revolves around the daily chapel worship, as well as
corporate meals and social activities. This gives the college more
the feel of a religious community than a residential home."
One resident, Fr Roland Webb, says: "It is not like an old
people's home, with everyone sitting around being told when to play
bingo or when to knit. It's a community, but we all do our own
thing, and keep a lot of independence."
Like the new retirement villages, at St Barnabas, extra care is
available when needed. "The college has an integrated care- and
nursing-facility, [that] means that it is possible for people to
move from one level of support to another as their needs change,"
Fr Such says.
"Couples can remain in the same community if one becomes more
frail. Residents are asked to contribute the cost of their care if
their circumstances permit. If this is not possible, help is
accessed from various other sources to supplement their
ONCE the core needs of independent living and security of care
provision are met, Knight Frank says, the top priority is access to
a community. Its survey found that 56 per cent of people seeking a
retirement community wanted there to be a communal area, compared
with 37 per cent who desired extra amenities, such as gyms and
Ms Morse, of the Pilgrim's Friend Society, says that this
confirms what many Christian housing-providers have been
emphasising for a long time: "I truly believe that so often we're
not living the way God made us to live.
"There is a large body of research now which proves the value of
community to our well-being. For example, some research that has
come out of the Center for Ageing at Rush University, Washington,
recently demonstrated that feelings of loneliness are linked with a
47-per-cent increased risk of developing dementia. The only way for
us to get back to full health - physically, emotionally and
spiritually - is to live as God designed us to.
"That's why we are constantly looking at ways to develop
fellowship in our homes, which are just for believers, and havens,
which are for all. We even have a psychogeriatric nurse who brings
the residents together for 'brain- and soul-boosting sessions'
using CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] principles to work on
self-affirmation and developing a strong sense of identity, as this
is one of the first things to go with dementia.
"[This is] all because we know that even mild cognitive
impairment can limit social interaction and community - something
that is so important for quality of life."
SECULAR housing-providers who invest in village-style schemes
are less vociferous about the importance of community for the
elderly, and yet this has contributed to the investment in the
activities and amenities on offer.
"There is a wellness spa, restaurant, activity room, café, and
lounge, as one of the main reasons for the move is to have a good
social community on your doorstep," Mr Reaves says.
Howard Nankivell, the sales and marketing director at Anchor
Homes - England's largest not-for-profit provider of homes and care
for the over-55s - points out that "the amenities which retirees
have come to expect" are provided with the ultimate aim of creating
a "thriving and welcoming community."
Indeed, the Christian housing-providers also see
"extra-curricular" activities as fostering a sense of togetherness
among residents. "As well as the 'brain- and soul-boosting
sessions," Ms Morse says, "there is poetry and painting, knit and
natter, you name it."
And yet it is, more often, the Christian values of these
organisations that provide the real opportunity to build shared
lives. The Charterhouse, for example, is one of a handful of
almshouses still remaining in the UK: a community of men (or
"Brothers", as they are known) who have made a valuable
contribution to society, and are admitted on the condition of
having insufficient finances and/or family support. Residents are
required to pay a minimum of £400 a month.
One Brother, who wanted to be known as David, says that "the
company of retired vicars, teachers, and artists, combined with the
sheer amount of wonderful concerts and lectures have seriously
broadened my cultural horizons.
"And yet, despite all that, the overriding identity of the
Charterhouse is summed up when I see an 80-year-old helping a
90-year-old up to take communion in chapel."
The Master of the Charterhouse, Charlie Hobson, says that
"although the spirituality is optional, it is fundamentally linked
with the building of community."
IT IS a similar situation at the College of St Barnabas, Fr Such
explains. "Chapel attendance is not a statutory requirement of
residence, but it is, rather, a privilege of living here that
people see as a blessing. Gathering as a family around the altar is
the most profound unifying factor."
Fr Webb says that "the chapel is the engine room of community:
it's where everything starts and ends. From here, we understand
that we are all servants of each other; we look after each
Indeed, there seems to be a recognition among all the Christian
retirement-providers that, although they seek to be places of
nurture, the most thriving communities are those which engender a
level of commitment and effort from the residents. "You have to be
someone who is prepared to sign up to the values of the community,
to contribute to the shared vision," David says.
Ms Morse paints a similar picture: "Ultimately, you can be as
involved or reclusive as you like. Our residents are not in each
other's pockets, but it really works when the residents commit to
being there for each other. We acknowledge that, as a result, it
isn't always easy to live in real community - some people might
never have done it before - which is why we try to make it as
collaborative as possible. There are lots of team meetings
involving residents and staff where the community can really
David observes how it is the job of the staff to smooth out the
rough edges of any community: "Of course, there is the very
occasional bit of friction, or personality clashes, but the staff
at the Charterhouse are excellent at recognising tensions early and
resolving any potential conflict. The Master was in the Royal
Marines, you see, and he knows how to manage people in a close-knit
"Having been to public school, I took to it very easily. Yes, I
guess it is a bit like a returning to [an] institutional period of
life all these years later. And, let me say, it's an absolute
privilege. I feel incredibly lucky."