By Gerald Lee, CEO, St Monica Trust
Gerald Lee is the outgoing Chief Executive of The St Monica Trust, which runs four highly regarded retirement villages in the south west of England, he is also a member of the BEN board of trustees. In this blog, Gerald talks about why people move to retirement villages, what makes a good one and why we need more of them.
Retirement villages improve quality of life, health and wellbeing
People move to retirement villages for many reasons; they may feel insecure in their own home, their garden may be too much for them, some are fearful of a knock on the door from an unscrupulous tradesman. Others may have an ailing partner who needs additional support and many simply feel isolated and lonely. All of these challenges can be overcome by moving to a retirement village where you can live in your own home with support on hand whenever you need it. The simple fact of having someone at the end of a call button can help you rest easy at night.
Put like that it sounds very simple, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t you choose to live somewhere you’ll feel safe, with help at hand? But the decision to move to a retirement village can be difficult and complex. People fear moving out of their community, worry that they will lose touch with the outside world. Families play a big role in making the decision to move and it can be an emotional journey, particularly if it involves the sale of the family home. There might be financial barriers or simply an unwillingness to admit they can’t cope. Those who do take the plunge almost invariably tell us they wish they’d moved sooner, and that the lifestyle and camaraderie within a good retirement village has enhanced their quality of life immeasurably.
Why retirement villages work
But what makes a good retirement village? And how does living in one enhance your quality of life? Activities play a large part in improving wellbeing. Keeping busy, being occupied, spending time with others makes the feelings of isolation and loneliness a distant memory. A good retirement village will offer a wide range of suitable activities and entertainment and will have onsite facilities to make your days pleasurably busy. Simply being more active makes people feel better.
Nutrition is another area where a good retirement village can improve things. Older people, especially those who live alone, tend not to cook as much. Having help with cooking or the option of an onsite restaurant (one that will bring meals to you if you don’t feel like going out) means people eat better, which means their health improves.
A well-designed and well-maintained environment is also important in a retirement village. Having someone else take care of the maintenance of buildings and gardens is a huge relief for many residents but it must be done well to provide a pleasant place to live. Considerate design is also important to enable frailer residents to navigate safely and easily with no tricky staircases or steep slopes to manage.
Care is a key part of the good retirement village package. Having access to a range of support that can be put in place as needs evolve is important for peace of mind. Whether it’s you or your partner whose needs change, knowing you can put support in place very quickly, and with no need to move, is very reassuring. Many retirement villages have care centres onsite which can work brilliantly if one half of a couple needs full time care, because it means their partner is still nearby, which takes a lot of the stress out of the situation.
People often refer to retirement villages as offering ‘independent living’, but I think it would more accurately be described as ‘living in your own home with support’. You have your own front door, your own home and privacy within a safe environment where help is moments away. It’s a solution that offers emotional security to both residents and their families and we need more retirement villages to meet growing demand.