What are retirement communities and how do they work?

In your retirement you may have heard of people moving to developments specifically built for people over the age of 55. Here's your guide to how retirement communities work, what to expect, and how they may operate differently to standard new build developments.

Written by

Sheila Frampton

What is a retirement community?

If you have ever looked up ‘UK retirement communities’ or ‘retirement villages near me’ – you may have been more confused than you were to begin with! There is often a crossover between a retirement community or retirement development and a retirement village but generally, a retirement community is a housing development with residency restricted to people over a certain age.

What is the difference between a retirement community or retirement development and a retirement village?

Generally, the number of homes is how we distinguish retirement communities from retirement villages. Retirement villages tend to have more than 100 homes on site, whereas retirement communities have fewer homes.

Today, we tend to think of retirement communities being designed for active, independent people who want an easier lifestyle in a community of like-minded people.

Retirement villages, on the other hand, tend to hold a far higher number of residents, and often feature their own amenities (as opposed to making use of local businesses) – including cafes, restaurants, hairdressing salons, daily housekeeping, swimming pools and spas and often some kind of nursing assistance.

How does a retirement community work?

A photo of an older lady reading a newspaper in her drawing room

Buying a new home at a retirement community like Beechcroft’s is very much like buying on any new development in terms of ownership.

You own your own home, maintain your privacy and your independence but benefit from some communal facilities such as beautifully landscaped communal gardens, a communal lounge, and a luxurious guest suite that may be booked for family and friends at some developments.

At Beechcroft you are free to sell your home on the open market, provided you adhere to the age restrictions.

You do, however, pay service charges which cover the development’s running costs including buildings insurance, gardening, external window cleaning and the services of an Estate Manager to ensure that the development is maintained to an extremely high standard.

What types of accommodation are available at a retirement community?

The type of accommodation depends on the developer and the location. Some developments comprise solely of apartments, others of houses – but often, particularly in the case of Beechcroft, developments include both houses and apartments.

Beechcroft’s developments frequently include apartments or houses within beautifully renovated and carefully converted period buildings as well as newly built homes.

What is the cost of retirement community living?

The cost of buying a new home within a retirement community and living there depends on a variety of factors including location. Generally, you will have a service charge that will cover a range of costs from buildings insurance to communal cleaning, maintenance and window cleaning as well as the costs of the estate management service. It is possible that the service charges may be less than the cost of living in and maintaining an older family home once all the individual items have been costed. Retirement villages, particularly those offering medical assistance, health suites and swimming pools, tend to have higher service charges.

What’s the difference between a retirement community and any other new development?

You might ask yourself why wouldn’t I just buy an apartment in a normal housing development?

By becoming part of a retirement community, you are able to maintain your privacy and live independently whilst benefiting from the social aspect. You can expect a more peaceful lifestyle – no noisy neighbours or late-night parties disturbing your sleep. Even if your family and friends live miles away, you – and they – can be confident that you have someone to spend time with. One Beechcroft resident commented that he spoke to more neighbours in a week at his new development than he had in the nine years he’d lived in his previous house.

The social benefits were highlighted during the recent pandemic – residents of retirement communities and developments were generally less isolated by being able to walk around the community and chat with neighbours from a safe distance. On some Beechcroft developments, neighbours chatted to each other whilst each enjoyed a glass of wine on their own private balconies.

The benefits of having an Estate Manager were certainly highlighted during this period with the Estate Managers helping with shopping, collection of prescriptions, keeping residents connected, providing newsletters and generally giving help and advice.

Some retirement communities – including many Beechcroft developments, feature communal lounges which become the hub of community activities hosting social events from quizzes to fitness sessions. On some retirement developments luxurious guest suites may be booked for visiting family and friends.

Retirement properties are designed with the older generation in mind, generally with wider doorways and hallways as wheelchair access may be needed at some time. The outdoor areas are also designed to provide easy, safe access with smooth pathways, low level lighting.

At what age can you move to a retirement community?

Retirement communities or developments tend to attract younger residents – usually from the age of 55 or 60 and with most residents being active and independent, they tend to be in better health so will live at the development for much longer.

If you’re younger than 55 and want to buy a home in a peaceful community of like-minded people, take a look at Beechcroft’s Special Projects’ developments. These developments don’t have an age limit, but full-time residency is restricted to people over the age of 16 or 18.   This type of development attracts professional people, including retired professionals seeking a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle.

What makes a good retirement community?

What’s special about Beechcroft retirement communities?

Now you understand what to look for in a retirement community, it's time to consider which development is right for you. Here at Beechcroft, we have a number of factors that enable us to meet your requirements, both before you decide to buy, to the sale of your property should the need ever arise.

On-site Estate Managers

On each Beechcroft development, an on-site Estate Manager handles the day-to-day administration of the estate, organising the cleaning and maintenance and keeping an eye on properties whilst owners are away which makes it easy to ‘lock up and leave.’

The Estate Managers are also on hand to offer help and advice when needed.

Our Estate Management service is operated by ELM, a company with over 50 years of experience in this field. 

Private outdoor space

Beechcroft always aims to create as much private outdoor space for homeowners as possible.

The elegant houses and apartments feature terraces, balconies, roof terraces, private gardens or a combination of these.

Private gardens as well as the communal landscaped setting are maintained by the Estate Manager – so, if you’re away on holiday, you won’t come home to knee-deep grass.

Located in ideal villages, towns and cities

Whilst Beechcroft selects development sites close to shops and services in some of the most attractive villages and market towns in the southern counties, many developments also offer a shuttle bus service to take residents into town – or further afield.

Expertly designed communal gardens

Landscaping is an integral part of the design of every Beechcroft development.

The landscaped setting features planting designed to provide year-round colour and texture, with rich underplanting and a choice of plants to attract butterflies and insect life.

The communal gardens often provide a venue for community gatherings and summer parties and are a lovely place to relax and chat to neighbours.

Neighbouring care homes*

Beechcroft’s close working relationship with Porthaven has resulted in the creation of care homes adjacent to some of the company’s retirement communities.

This is beneficial to residents who are able to benefit from a ‘menu’ of additional services at the care home from daily hot meals to laundry services and social events.

Beechcroft residents recovering from operations or illness are able to recuperate at the neighbouring care home.

If a spouse or a partner or a parent needs residential care, living in a new easily maintained home on a neighbouring development makes it easy to visit and spend time with the loved one.

*Not all Beechcroft developments feature an adjacent care home. Please check with our representatives for more information.

Built to Heathihouse™ standard

Beechcroft’s new homes have been designed, built and finished to meet the companies Heathihouse™ standards and provide a healthier living environment.

The new homes feature light switches and door handles with antimicrobial properties, non-porous, easy to clean worksurfaces which won’t stain or crack and featuring antimicrobial properties.

Bathrooms and en-suites are fitted with hygienic, easy to clean wall panelling and sanitaryware incorporates technology designed to suppress bacterial growth.

The whole house ventilation system is designed to provide filtered air throughout which means a heathier and more comfortable living environment – and with the incoming air being pre-warmed, the ventilation system can lead to a reduction in heating costs during the colder months.

There’s a water filtration system for the kitchen tap, reducing limescale, impurities and chemicals resulting in better tasting tap water.

Before homeowners move in, each property will also be deep cleaned to World Health Organisation standards.

With ample living space

Beechcroft’s retirement communities include homes that have been designed to provide plenty of generously proportioned living space regardless of the number of bedrooms and the specification of each home is of a high standard.

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