The May issue of M.T. highlights the issue of Retirement housing as a solution to the problems of loneliness, need or security and the worry and expense of property maintenance.
Set against that the Government stresses its endeavours to help older people to maintain their independence within their own homes. What the realities of either option?
Personal experience has taught me that those with family or an established circle of friends around them, able to enjoy, with or without their help, an active social life, would do well to stay in their own homes and familiar surroundings for as long as is physically possible.
The burden of property upkeep is best be dealt with by downsizing to smaller, more manageable property, reducing running costs and releasing capital for future care/nursing needs.
Before you fall under the spell of the wonderful world of ‘happy retirement village living’ it is important to remember that, with the exceptions of council owned ‘sheltered housing,’ all these developments are, in effect, commercial enterprises, notwithstanding their ‘Not for Profit’ ‘Charity Registered’ declaration.
‘Not for profit’ still means that the charges levied must generate enough funds to pay the board of directors and administration.
Staff as well as generate enough income to expand, build new developments and provide high contingency funds. Consequently monthly charges are not cheap, as ‘independent living’ means self-catering, meal provisions are an additional ‘restaurant tariff’ extra.
What about the ‘companionship’ and ‘always help at hand’ angle? In most cases they do not match expectations. Very few retirement developments have 24 hrs resident wardens/staff trained to give assistance.
24 hour help is usually provided by an individually fitted emergency helpline, operated from a call centre; a facility easily and cheaply available in your own home.
Very few ‘retirement developments’ initiate/run social/cultural activities within their developments.
In the majority of cases residents either initiate their own social activities or hope to befriend kindred spirits amongst residents. Experience would indicate that many residents prefer to ‘keep themselves to themselves’ afraid to be drawn into the difficulties of their fellow residents, heightening a sense of loneliness within themselves.
Lastly, the emotional effect of living exclusively in a community of your own age group needs to be considered carefully as will the need to remember that, once you have sold your home and committed yourself, reversing the situation can be costly and traumatic if you feel it does not live up to expectations.
For those with no family or friends around them it might be a solution but think carefully and research all the facts before the glossy brochures blind you to the possible realities.
Angela Mayet by email
The way I see it…