Care levels explained:

What is Retirement Housing/ Assisted Living/Close Care Housing?


Retirement Housing is usually a group of purpose built cottages or flats with estate management services offered generally with the assistance of a resident manager. The accommodation is designed for the particular age group so there tend to be fewer but larger bedrooms. Many people who are attracted to this sort of accommodation want a smaller more manageable home and would rather look at well-kept gardens than having to be responsible for them.

A desire for greater security, coupled with the practicalities of living longer in the 21st century has meant people want to take an easier and more relaxed lifestyle in their later years. Walking to shops as opposed to having to get into a car can be a boon for many people. Hence schemes tend to be sited close to shops in attractive environments, where like- minded people can live together knowing help is at hand should it be required.

In the past, nursing homes often provided an attractive environment for the elderly where they could enjoy their declining years with a good quality of life. After the war it would not have been uncommon for the average stay in a nursing home to be seven years or so. Today it can be seven weeks. Today, new purpose built retirement housing allows people to stay in their own homes and with care and assistance postpone the nursing home indefinitely.

What is Assisted Living?


Assisted Living accommodation has been around in one form or another longer than purpose built retirement housing. In the past people have readily paid for assistance with day to day living principally cleaning and food, by taking suites of rooms and effectively having their own self-contained accommodation as opposed to just bedrooms and bathrooms. Rather like residential homes there are likely to be communal lounges and dining rooms and the full array of domestic help is available often with additional facilities such as club rooms or even swimming pools. The crucial difference is that you have your own front door to your apartment, cottage or suite of rooms as opposed to just a bedroom and bathroom with communal facilities. Assisted Living accommodation is similar in many respects to retirement housing and sometimes the distinction can be blurred particularly when a retirement scheme might have additional facilities such as a swimming pool, restaurant and 24 hour emergency cover in the form of resident managers. Generally speaking, Assisted Living is where the management organisation undertakes to look after, not just the external elements in a scheme such as buildings insurance, gardening, cleaning, refuse removal, but also undertakes and arranges, if people so wish, their domestic duties such as cleaning the inside of an apartment or house and perhaps offering a “caring” service. Today there are many companies offering Assisted Living packages for those in late adulthood who want this type of security and protection. One well known firm which offers a form of Assisted Living is Retirement Security Limited. They provide something rather unique in that while they offer communal lounges and dining rooms there is always someone on duty in the development, night and day, to look after you in an emergency and arrange additional assistance as required. Many assisted living units can be found within the grounds of a care or nursing home such as Westminster and BUPA, some of course in “retirement villages” which often have varying degrees of “shelter” on offer. Barchester’sChacombe Park in Oxfordshire has retirement property in a converted country house adjacent to a new nursing home where the facilities of the home are available. Anchor has a new retirement village at Yatley in Hampshire, AudleyRetirement has schemes in Yorkshire, Kent and Devon, Renaissance hasdevelopments in Exeter and Liphook,Swimbridge, are all examples of new assisted living accommodation providers. .


What is Senior Living? An alternative to traditional nursing homes


Companies such as Sunrise Senior Living and Signature Care Homes specialise in this area. Most Sunrise communities in the UK are focused on providing assisted living services, dementia care and nursing care to residents.


What is Close Care Housing?


Purpose built close care accommodation was pioneered by such companies as Anglia, Beaumont Healthcare,Dalecare, Stepping Stones, Westminster Healthcare and others more than 25 years ago. Essentially close care accommodation is where there is more than just a watching brief on the well-being of an individual. It is usually to be found within the grounds of a nursing home where the facilities of the home are available to the occupants of the close care units and of course ultimately it is envisaged that the resident of the close care property will eventually move into the nursing home.


Different types of retirement housing


Scheme designs, accommodation, extra features, flexibility, care in the future, lock up and leave


1.         General Housing but with an age covenant – see The Grange in Chobham
2.         Secure / Gated Housing but with an age covenant – see Thameside, Kingston
3.         Independent Retirement Housing
4.         Retirement Housing with Resident Manager
5.         Retirement Villages / Communities
6.         Residential Parks / Homes
7.         Assisted Living / Extra Care
8.         Close Care (within the grounds of a Nursing Home)
9.         Retirement Home / Abbeyfield
10.       Care Home / Senior Living


1.General Housing -The Grangeis a small development of retirement bungalows situated off Windsor Road to the north of the village with an age covenant of 55+. There is a bus stop in Windsor Road opposite the development.

2.Secure Housing -Thameside Place is situated off Lower Teddington Road close to shops and within walking distance of the station. The development consists of 13 apartments and cottages on the south bank of the Thames with an age covenant.
3. Independent Retirement apartments and flatsare to be found in most retirement developments and can vary considerably in size from small studio flats to large three bedroom apartments the size of a good modern five bedroom house in excess of 2500 sq ft. The apartments are mostly purpose built with fewer rooms to reflect the new lifestyle - family houses are often too large for two people once the children have left to start their own families and many retired people prefer fewer rooms and not necessarily less space.
When buying retirement property it is important to remember that whilst you are buying your own home with its own front door, a self-contained apartment for example, you are buying into the development as a whole. The apartment building and its component parts - wide corridors with good natural lighting - well designed with breaks or lobby areas to create interest as opposed to straight lines. As with all apartment buildings, some will be fairly utilitarian and others comparable to luxury hotels.


The apartments will all share something in common and that is the service charge. Unlike ordinary flats in the general housing market, with retirement property there are likely to be additional services and facilities which have to paid for. These could include an estate or house manager, either resident or visiting, an emergency alarm service, lift, communal lounge, laundry, guest facilities. Many managers will check daily on the well-being of their residents and all will keep a note of their movements and visitors. Other facilities might include a hairdressing salon, library, fitness room, conservatory, garaging, gardens and grounds. Most developments of self-contained retirement flats are reasonably close to shops or situated on a regular bus route.

The management of retirement developments has changed over the last 15 years partly as a response to reduce costs but also as a result of new employment laws and restricted weekend working. It is more common now to have a house manager no longer living on the premises and most new developments have visiting management staff. Existing developments are loosing their resident managers at a rate of 5% a year but within the next three years this will level off as demand for resident managers still remains strong from both buyers and management companies alike. The resident manager remains popular as whilst not being on duty after 5pm it is an added reassurance for many of the elderly to know that a neighbourly hand is there and a regular face about the development even when off duty.


4. Retirement Housing with a resident manager is a concept favoured by specialist companies. Manymanagers of retirement housing are committed to the ideal of resident staff particularly with the frail and elderly such as Retirement Security, Barchester Healthcare and retirement companies such as Cognatum see the ideal as a combination of the two especially with smaller developments and a younger age group of 55+. It is always important to remember that the retirement housing ideal is one of anticipating advancing years and it should be possible not to have to move again unless it is necessary.


5. Retirement Villages pioneered the development of retirement villages in the UK with its first development at Elmbridge, near Cranleigh in Surrey in 1981. Borrowing ideas from America it sought to bring facilities inside the development which might otherwise be found in the local village or town but remaining inclusive within the local community.

Elmbridge Village is the oldest retirement village with over 200 properties set in grounds of 28 acres. Facilities include a main function room with stage, a restaurant, medical centre and village store. There are bungalows and apartments set around attractive garden squares with visitors parking principally at the main entrance.

One of the more recent retirement villages to be built is Denham Garden Village in Buckinghamshire set in gardens, grounds and woodland of 30 acres close to shops in Denham Green. The heart of the village centre has indoor courtyards and atrium spaces with natural light and on-site facilities which include a health spa, cafe, bar and village shop. There are more than 250 two and three-bedroom retirement properties with state-of-the-art security features. There are numerous walkways within the development with easy car access to most properties.

Today there are several companies building retirement villages from Moray to Cornwall.
6.Residential Parksare often situated in attractive countryside and new park homes are usually constructed off site and after manufacture are transported to your residential park for occupation.

7. The purpose of Very Sheltered Housingis to enable retired people to retain their independence for the whole of their lives, if they wish and to avoid the need to move to a Nursing Home. The design of the buildings are such that even if an owner becomes confined to a wheelchair, they can still manage, as all the doors are wide and there are no steps to be climbed. Particular attention has been made to ensure lifts are suitable for retired people.


Services are much greater than is usually provided in sheltered housing. Instead of a single manager who is expected to be on duty at all times there is a team of Housekeepers who work shifts so that they do not become overburdened and one of them is always present in case of emergencies.

In addition domestic assistance is provided to all owners in their private apartments and for the communal areas. Primarily this is intended to relieve daily tasks but in case of extended illness the amount of domestic assistance can be increased as necessary. There is also a dining room where meals are available at cost if required. While this is an additional facility for people who are well, but who do not wish to have to cook everyday, it is an essential service for people who are ill and for whom the problem of providing meals in the apartments would otherwise be insoluble.

Inevitably the cost of the service is greater than in some sheltered or retirement housing schemes but the costs are controlled particularly with regard to future increases and they are under the direct control of the owners. The fact that Very Sheltered Housing is successful in reducing demands on public services means that financial assistance may be available for anyone who cannot easily manage the service charge.

8. Close Care

Some companies have ‘close care housing’ as well as ‘Assisted Living’ such as Barchester Healthcare. Examples of companies with close care accommodation include Methodist HA, Maple Tree House and BUPA. On the whole, close care units do not have the same range of facilities and quite such an outward perspective on life as assisted living units. As with retirement housing and assisted living, what separates them from residential retirement homes is their physical self-containment. Each bungalow, apartment or cottage has its own front door.

9. Abbeyfieldis a charitable organisation committed to enhancing the quality of life for older people and have more than 800 care homes and sheltered houses spread across the country.  Once you’ve settled into a home you can enjoy the Abbey lifestyle which includes home cooked meals, communal areas for social activities and gardens for everyone to enjoy.  You have the reassurance of 24 hour emergency assistance and peace of mind from living in a safe, warm and homely atmosphere created by professional house managers, volunteers and dedicated staff.

Life at Abbeyfield is as busy as you want it to be and you are encouraged to keep up with your hobbies and join in on trips out.  There are regular entertainment events and visits from all sorts of people – from drama groups to the local hairdresser.

10. Care Home / Senior Living
Nursing Homes / Care Homes / Senior Living

Nursing Homes:provide nursing care 24 hours a day and there are about 12000 of them in the United Kingdom alone. Most are privately run and all have to be registered with a Local Authority. Some are supported by voluntary organisations such as the Elizabeth Finn Trust which was founded as the Distressed Gentlefolk‘s Aid Association more than a hundred years ago.

Elizabeth Finn Trust:In 1897 a few kindly people got together to help one of their neighbours who had fallen on hard times and the DGAA was born. Great social change has taken place since then but the needs of the elderly in reduced circumstances remains the same. The Elizabeth Finn Trust aims to relieve need and distress among people from a professional, similar or closely associated background, of British and Irish nationality and their immediate families regardless of religious denomination, political opinion, age or place of residence.

Residential Care Homes:provide care to those people who cannot manage on their own and need some form of assistance with daily living. They need to be registered with the appropriate authority. Most have communal lounges and dining rooms. Many Residential Care Homes now offer additional services to 24 hour care and attention such as independent living units within their grounds providing additional flexibility for their clients.
One such Care Home is The Malthouse in Dorset. Situated on the outskirts of Gillingham The Malthouse is a 17th Century building offering spacious bedrooms all with en-suite facilities and independent living in ‘Lodges‘ and ‘Apartments‘. Fully furnished accommodation is available in the Care Home and guests wishing to bring their own furniture are welcome to do so. All rooms enjoy varying aspects of the gardens. The majority of accommodation is single occupancy although there are a number of large rooms suitable for couples, friends or relatives wishing to share.

The Lodges and Apartments have been designed to meet the accommodation and living needs of those who, in retirement, would like the security of a care environment and do not wish to have the responsibility of maintaining their own house and gardens. The aim is to offer flexibility; a wide range of services are available including domestic, meals, care, medical and physiotherapy advice and alternative medical practitioners.

11. Retirement properties

Retirement bungalowsare often very popular with the retired as most people prefer to live on the ground floor as they grow older. If a bungalow can't be found in the right area then a ground floor apartment may well do as a second choice. Many people still wish to go upstairs to bed and there are cottages available to suit this market. For those who like to live on the first floor for added security reasons or wish to have a view, fresh air, first floor apartments are available in many retirement developments but if you want ground floor without anybody overhead then a bungalow is the answer. Bungalows are also likely to have access to a garden as with a ground floor apartment.

Bungalows can be found in mixed style developments with flats and cottages and also on their own but are less common than cottages and flats. There are developments such as The Grange in Chobham, Surrey, which have an age covenant only and to all intents and purposes little different to general housing. Retirement bungalows can be found in all sorts of developments from independent retirement living schemes to extra care housing and retirement villages. Retirement bungalows at Meridian Court just outside Ascot in Berkshire sell from £210,000 to £250,000

Retirement cottagesare found in many developments but a complete cottage development with just a few apartments tucked in the corners and garages discreetly placed so as not to dominate the views are fairly rare. The first upmarket retirement developments were developed by the English Courtyard Association in the late 1970's soon to be followed by The Beechcroft Trust in the 1980s'. These two companies have now merged to form Cognatum Limited with over 60 developments across the United Kingdom and one in the Channel Islands. Typical two and three-bedroom cottages sell from between £300,000 to £600,000. For further information contact Telephone: 01491 615 961

A desire for greater security therefore, coupled with the practicalities of living longer in the 21st century, has meant people everywhere want to take an easier and more relaxed lifestyle in their later years. Walking to shops as opposed to having to get into a car can be a boon to many people. Hence retirement developments tend to be located close to shops in attractive environments, where like-minded people can live together knowing help is at hand should it be needed.

Before the 1970s' in the UK and elsewhere in the Anglo-Saxon speaking world, save for America, there was no private retirement housing for sale. In the public sector in the United Kingdom there were over 300,000 sheltered units to rent first brought to the public's attention by Malcolm Parry from the University of Surrey in the early 1980s' . Then it was considered there were only about 2500 retirement homes for sale built in the whole of the United Kingdom.

It was the Thatcher years with increased pensions, wealth and a can-do attitude that helped bring about the sudden surge in retirement building. It seems unbelievable now but in the late 1980s' there were more than 400 developers of private retirement housing in the UK. Within five years there would be less than 40.

In the past, nursing homes often provided an attractive environment for those in later life where they could enjoy their declining years in comfort and security. After the Second World War it would not have been uncommon for the average stay in a nursing home to be seven years as it was at Thamesfield Nursing Home in Goring-on-Thames now converted to luxury retirement homes. Today the average length of stay in a nursing home can be considerably less. New purpose built retirement housing allows people to stay in their own homes and with care and assistance postpone the nursing home indefinitely.