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Downsizing to an all-inclusive

Have a loved-one considering a move to a retirement village? Here are some pointers on how to make it a positive step

Did you know Britain’s population of over-65s will grow four times faster than the general population over the next five years? That’s according to an FT survey.

That’s a lot of people! Many of these will be parents (maybe yours). Many will have had long, successful careers, large family homes and will be looking to downsize (with a long list of added extras they’d like in their new accommodation). Cue an increase in swish retirement villages.

People now typically make such a move in their 80s rather than their 60s and even then they may find it daunting. They worry it will be stressful and the thought of leaving a family home can be emotional. There may also fear losing their independence.

They might be surprised however if they realise the new breed of retirement villages have more in common with five-star hotels. The Hawthorns at Eastbourne, for instance, uses a pioneering all-inclusive rental model. Residents have wine with lunch, up-to-date activities like laughter yoga and ample opportunities for days out. In fact many say they wish they’d made the move sooner.

Because, as in a hotel, so much is done for them (even laundry if they like), it leaves your relative extra time for those things they’ve always wanted to do like an OU degree, learning to paint, or making every one of their grandchild’s football matches! In fact, rather than losing their independence, residents actually find they gain it!

We asked Anne-Marie Maynard, customer service manager at The Hawthorns for some advice on helping a relative make the move to a retirement village and some of the things they can look forward to that they may not have even considered.

Why do people tend to make the move?

A retirement village like ours is independent living but away from the hassle of things that can get people down. The residents don’t have to worry about paying bills (it’s all included) and they can eat sociably with other people rather than perhaps on their own.

What are the rooms like?  

We have more variety here than most retirement villages – studios which have a kitchenette and sitting area; one bedroom apartments with and without outside space, and self-contained bungalows with their own front door and garden and a kitchen so people have the option of cooking for themselves. Once they are here residents can also swap if they like when another type of accommodation is available.

Bungalows and apartments at The Hawthorns, Eastbourne

Do residents have to sell their house to move? 

That’s more likely if you’re buying. We’ve pioneered the rental model at The Hawthorns so you pay monthly on a rolling contract, with bills all included and a low service charge. You can also try a month with no obligation. Our residents may sell, rent out or otherwise keep their existing properties. We always recommend prospective residents speak to an accredited financial advisor about their options first.

If you choose to buy a retirement property instead of renting you should bear in mind that these can be harder to sell later than a regular home – people used to buy them when they were 60 or 65, now they’re often not doing so till they’re over 80.

Is location, location, location still important?

Yes, because nowadays people are active for longer. We’re in a great location in Eastbourne because we’re close to the town centre and a couple of miles from the seafront, you can also get to Beachy Head. There’s a great variety of things to do.

You should always ask about a retirement village’s activities programme. When a new resident comes here we find out what they want to do and make that happen. It’s about their new chapter. If they miss going to the theatre and want to go once a month we take them. We can’t assume bingo is what everyone wants because that’s what residents wanted 15 years ago!

Cinema room, The Hawthorns

What if my loved-one is worried about losing their independence?

Tell them residents are in complete control of what they do. The meals are there for them and the doors are open. It’s not one size fits all, we just put on as much as possible and they can pick and choose what they want to do. If they are in a bungalow they can even still cook their own meals if they wish.

Coffee area, The Hawthorns

How should we make a visit? 

Make a planned appointment then an unscheduled visit to any village you’re considering. We’re happy to accommodate that at The Hawthorns. You can do a tour, maybe experience a lunch, then on the second unannounced visit get a feel for what the village is like every day.

Ask what the links are like with the local community and speak to other residents – it’s their home after all!

A lot of people come alone, then, when they’re going to decide, they bring their relations. About 70% come themselves in the first place, about 30% are brought by their families.

Any other advice?

You need to understand what’s really important for your loved-one and also find out what goes on in a village you are considering 24 hours a day – the level of support that’s there – and the level of fun!

For more information on The Hawthorns, Eastbourne see Hawthornsretirement.co.uk

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