The thought of retirement can be a daunting prospect for many. With the average life expectancy rising – the number of 85-year-olds in the UK is expected to double by 2026 – so is the desire to remain as independent as possible long into old age.
So how can you maintain your independence whilst ensuring that you will have the support you need if things change and your health or mobility deteriorate? That is where downsizing into retirement property can help.
Retirement properties offer older people the chance to retain their independence for longer, reduce their financial outgoings and deliver significant health benefits.
But not all retirement properties are the same and these benefits are strengthened when the property in question is designed on the ‘extra-care’ model, as recommended by the Department of Health (DoH).
The DoH estimates that in the next 20 years, an additional 1.7m people will have a potential care need. About 25 per cent of residents entering extra-care go on to experience improvements in their health due, in part, to easy access to onsite flexible care that adapts to their changing needs.
A new landmark study – published in JAMA Network Open – which questioned more than 6,000 people also found that pensioners who feel they have a purpose in life have “double the chance” of enjoying a long retirement.
Extra-care living also offers easy access to communal facilities, encouraging people to meet other people, make friends and socialise, allowing them to carry on life as normal. With one of the biggest causes of ill-health among older people being depression linked to loneliness, this feeling of being part of a community means there is also a much lower probability of this occurring in an extra-care environment.
The personal benefits are maximised if the move is made in a timely fashion. If done before a person finds themselves struggling in their old property, the experience can be less stressful and the transition easier.
And it is not just personal independence that is maintained but also financial independence if you are buying a retirement property. With each resident owning the home they live in, this in turn enables them to protect their equity.
While perhaps less obvious, the societal benefits offered by retirement properties, and specifically those following the ‘extra-care’ model, are also substantial.
When a person moves in to any sort of retirement property, this frees up their old property. A report for the Local Government Association previously estimated that older people occupy 3.3m homes that are now too big. If more older people downsized, this would have a big impact on the current pressure on new build developments.
In addition, a report for the Homes and Communities Agency estimated that, on average, a person downsizing into an extra-care property could save the public purse about £440 per year.
Those living in extra-care properties on average spend less time in hospital than those of equivalent age living in standard retirement properties, meaning pressure on the NHS is also naturally reduced.
Should a person develop health or care needs while living in an extra-care environment, help can be delivered more quickly and effectively. With a standard level of support built into the service charge, additional help, such as personal care services, can be added if a person finds themselves in need of it.
Overall, extra-care living offers a number of benefits for both those who choose such properties and their families, as well as society as a whole, reducing the risks around personal, financial or health-related concerns in the future.