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“There’s a lot more to life in a retirement village” – ExtraCare’s CEO Mick Laverty

Earlier this year, law firm, Shakespeare Martineau published a whitepaper titled ‘How we can make retirement housing aspirational and not a sign of a crisis.’ The report highlighted the significant gap between public perception of the retirement housing sector and the reality. It showed a lack of awareness of the benefits to residents and poor understanding of the facilities, services, and activities that retirement communities commonly offer. We believe it is these misconceptions that prevent some people from considering an ExtraCare village as a positive and viable housing option.

The benefits of living in a retirement village are, to us, obvious. But it seems the positives are still relatively unknown to a large proportion of the population. This isn’t the case outside of the UK. If you look to New Zealand, moving to a retirement community is an expected stage of later life. The difference is that here, the idea of a retirement village is too often synonymous with an ‘old people’s home’ or ‘care home.’ Over there, they are seen as vibrant communities, where older people with passion and purpose come together with trailblazing spirit to rediscover passions, learn new skills, and embrace connections with like-minded people.

CEO Mick Laverty

How retirement villages are different to care homes:

It is true that care homes and retirement communities have some commonality – they are both designed for those who are older – otherwise, they are starkly different. Residents in a care home generally have their own room, share communal areas, and have varying levels of care needs – some around the clock. By marked contrast, retirement villages promote independent living for as long as possible.
Residents who move into our locations will have their own apartments and can utilise the onsite facilities as they wish – these include a bistro and bar, hobby room, spas and salon, and gym to name a few. All this, while no longer having to worry about the upkeep of their own home, that may no longer be fit for purpose, as the maintenance of the village and apartments is taken care of.

The benefits of retirement village living:

So how do we get the message across? How do we enlighten our older people and get them to view our retirement villages in the same way that the older generation in New Zealand do? How do we show that living within a retirement community is something to aspire to? We start by highlighting the benefits and we continue to shout about them for as long as we can.

Perhaps there’s a lot of ExtraCare’s offering that you don’t know? So, let me provide a quick overview.

  • Facilities – Our villages are not only located with great facilities on your doorstep, but they have a host of facilities onsite including bar and bistro, gym, hairdressers, hobby rooms – woodwork and craft, IT suite, library and village hall.
  • Services – Our award-winning care services include exceptional care for those need it, including assisted living support, well-being and dementia care.
  • Activities – We want our residents to carry on enjoying healthy and independent lifestyles, so we provide opportunities to learn new skills, challenge themselves, or relax and socialise with friends through an exciting timetable of activities including Thai chi, art and crafts, and yoga.
  • Community – Our communities are diverse and inclusive, and made up of fun-loving older people who have a zest for life, alongside 2,300 active volunteers that represent all age groups.

If this wasn’t enough, we know that the ‘ExtraCare’ way of living has resounding health benefits for our residents and cost saving implications for the NHS. All of which was demonstrated in our research studies with Aston and Lancaster Universities. The full results can be found here, but in essence, our residents are never or hardly ever lonely (87%), have a reduction in anxiety symptoms (23%) and depressive symptoms (15%), exercise more (increase of 75%), and have improved autobiographical memory (24%) and memory recall (17%).

The disparity between the perceived idea of retirement village living and the reality of life within one of our communities is not new and neither is it going away. So, we’ll continue to bang the drum and invest our time in changing the perceptions of those who are yet to discover that moving to a retirement village is about a new and pioneering way of living.