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Disputing the misconceptions: Retirement villages are affordable and not just for the wealthy

Retirement is often portrayed as a time of leisure, relaxation, and a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labour. However, whenever I discuss the retirement living sector outside of work, I am often faced with the retirement village misconceptions and how “they’re exclusively for the wealthy,” and the completely false narrative that only those with substantial financial resources can enjoy their golden years in a comfortable and secure environment.

Disputing the misconceptions about retirement village

In reality, integrated retirement communities (IRC’s) are designed to cater to a wide range of individuals with diverse budgets and financial circumstances. In this article we aim to dispel the retirement village misconceptions and shed light on the affordability and accessibility they offer to retirees from all walks of life.

Affordable housing options

Contrary to popular belief, purpose built complexes for the over 55’s do provide a variety of housing options to suit different budgets. While some upmarket and luxurious developments do exist, many retirement villages in the UK offer affordable housing choices that cater to retirees with various financial means. At ExtraCare particularly, these options include:

  • Purchase a home outright (homes are offered on a leasehold basis)
  • Purchase a shared ownership home (‘shared ownership’ is where you buy a proportion of your home, then pay rent, which is the ‘interest only’ element, on the unpurchased portion)
  • Rent a home through the council (unfortunately we do not offer private rental or sub letting on any of our properties)

Government assistance

In the UK and several other countries, the government has recognised the importance of affordable retirement housing and have implemented programmes to support retirees in accessing suitable accommodation. For example, at ExtraCare, we offer a proportion of social rented properties across our locations which are allocated jointly with the local authority. A local Council will have a policy on who qualifies for social housing and who gets priority for this in the area. Please contact your local Council directly to find out about eligibility.

In-house Advisors

Something exclusive to ExtraCare, is our amazing team of Welfare Benefits Advisors that come with a wealth of knowledge surrounding affordability and options for many different circumstances.

Natalie James, Welfare Benefits Leader says: “Our main aim is to assist our residents to maximise their income through identifying benefits and assistance they may be missing out on. We provide regular surgeries where residents can come and see us in a private and confidential setting, or if they prefer, they can email us or call us instead.

We work closely with our sales and housing departments providing affordability assessments before people move in, so they have a clear picture of what they are going to be left with after paying their charges. We then follow this through to assisting with the necessary claims upon move in.

Through providing regular surgeries we can capture changes in circumstances to income or health/care needs and any associated benefits we can claim for residents. We also provide training to our staff so they can also assist us in capturing those that may need help.

People should claim what they are entitled to, many don’t like to make claims or find the claim forms too confusing, but it really does make a difference to their quality of life, especially with the cost of living increasing. In 2021/22, we supported residents in claiming £4.9m in benefits!”

Cost of living savings

One of the major advantages of retirement villages is that they provide a comprehensive range of services and amenities, such as maintenance, security, and access to recreational facilities. While there may be associated costs for these services, the potential savings by eliminating the expenses typically associated with owning and maintaining a house should be acknowledged. These include the likes of utility bills, and costly home repairs. When factoring in these savings, retirement village living can become more affordable and manageable.

Social and emotional benefits

Retirement villages offer more than just housing, they provide a vibrant and supportive community for the over 55’s. Engaging in social activities and fostering new friendships are crucial for maintaining mental wellbeing. By living in one of these developments, there’s the opportunity to participate in various social events, clubs, and activities which is invaluable and contributes to a fulfilling retirement lifestyle, regardless of financial status.

Downsizing and unlocking equity

For many, selling the family home and downsizing is a practical financial decision. Moving to a retirement village allows you to unlock the equity tied up in your property, providing additional funds that can be used to cover retirement living expenses or finance your desired lifestyle. This equity release can make retirement village living a feasible option for individuals who might have initially believed it was out of their reach.

Ultimately, retirement villages are not exclusively reserved for the affluent. The notion that only the wealthy can afford the comforts and benefits of a retirement village is a misconception that needs to be disputed. With affordable housing options, government assistance programmes, and potential cost savings, retirement living is accessible to many from diverse financial backgrounds. Moreover, the social and emotional benefits of residing in a retirement village contribute to a fulfilling retirement experience.

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