How many times have we discussed this? This is an issue that affects all ages and yet government rhetoric is once again pitting the generations against each other.
Yes – many baby boomers had the opportunity to buy their own homes. Yet for many this was instead of paying into a private or government pension plan as they were so unreliable. The house or flat is their pension. Just as today, people pulled their belts in to pay for their mortgage – no holidays, no going out, and no luxuries.
Yet once again people are being vilified for taking the exact steps younger generations want to take today.
We have talked already about the difficulties in downsizing. There are few suitable places to downsize to – especially if you want everything on one level, a bit of outside space (and I don’t mean an apology for a balcony!) and close to transport links, shops, and amenities. Just because you are downsizing doesn’t mean that you want poky little rooms with small windows and no storage space and miles from anywhere!
Escaping to the country may sound idyllic but if you have no car or someone who can drive you then it can be tough. You have to take into consideration that buses are being withdrawn, leaving some villages and small towns without any public transport. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a bus a week that is…
One of the possible solutions being discussed is the ‘Retirement Village.’ A concept more suited to the USA where there are houses and flats for those physically fit and independent, as opposed to the UK where the only concession is an alarm pull in the house. Then there are the sheltered housing options – a flat with your own front door and communal rooms.
Also within the village are the care/residential homes for those needing 24 hour care, as well as the nursing home for those requiring more intensive care. So, if you joined the village at 60 you could spend 40 years in the village moving into the different complexes as your needs change.
Within the village there are a variety of amenities such as shop, post office, hairdressing, restaurant, pub, library, and laundrette etc. There are leisure activities too! Some have out door sports such as golf and tennis, whilst others host indoor activities such as dancing, social evenings. Many of the activities are organised by local U3As. In most of these villages there are facilities for families to visit and obviously people have the freedom to come and go as they wish to pursue interests outside of the village.
The benefits are obvious – people with social care needs such as personal care are all on one site so costs are reduced. GP, dentists, podiatrists all attend on a regular basis, community nurses can be attached to the nursing home and there are always people who can answer alarm calls.
Furthermore as we all know loneliness is one of the key issues of the day and of course within the village there are always people there to make sure that no one feels isolated or lonely. Research and evidence has shown that people have a better quality of life in these villages and live longer as a result. Unfortunately – like every thing else – it is not cheap at around a £1000 a week, but you do get a lot of services included.
BUT – Do you really want to live with only older people, with the younger generation restricted to the staff? Why should older people be hidden away in the countryside in their own little ‘independent’ state? We are not aliens! Not least because we contribute £27 Billion in volunteering in London alone, before you even consider our child care/grand parenting duties and contributions to the economy via taxes and the use of services.
So why this need to hide us in communes? What about the loss of all those volunteers? Would it ever be suggested that young people have their own separate villages or families have their own separate villages? There would be outrage if it was suggested that people from different races, ethnic groups or religious groups were grouped together in this way. What happened to the ‘integrated society’? Have older people not earned the right to be part of the community, by contributing and living with people of all ages?
Certainly there will be many people who would enjoy this life. Plus many families would feel content in the knowledge that their relatives were in a secure environment and that they would be cared for in one place throughout the rest of their life, whatever happened to them. Many people would enjoy the social life and all the activities and friendship. In some of the American villages there have been several weddings.
Yes, people will be more active and perhaps less isolated, but the people who would choose to live in these villages are more likely to be social people who have been members of clubs etc. throughout their lives. Yet, for those who have never enjoyed clubs or a wide social life the thought of living in this type of community would not be attractive.
I would not dismiss this out of hand as it will be the answer for many people and it is good to have a variety of choices. But it should be one of a wide variety of options including flats with long leases and housing that older people actually want to live in. There is also the cooperative type of housing where several people choose to live together sharing cooking, shopping etc. but all having their own room.
There is a need to help older people move property, by explaining how to move and what fees/expenses will be incurred. Maybe there should be an inducement for those looking to leave London by allowing them to avoid stamp duty?
So, what would be your choice? Would you like living in a mixed aged community with all its ups and down or would you prefer being hidden away in a retirement village with the friendship and support of your peers? As usual – let us know your views.