Posted by Andrew Fyfe
Where a person lives is one of the most important factors in determining their overall happiness and wellbeing and a significant topic in environmental psychology. In relation to this problem, it is therefore important to establish what retirees need in order to be happy in their home environments as this will help to shape the provision of suitable senior housing. We will then explore how retirement villages can help people achieve “residential satisfaction” as defined below.
“Residential satisfaction can be defined as the experience of pleasure or gratification deriving from living in a specific place.”
In a study by Rioux & Werner it was proposed that residential satisfaction depends on four main components. These were the local area, access to services, relations with neighbours and the home itself. We will look at these four sub-sectors and see how retirement villages can benefit their residents in these areas.
The Local Area: Physical Characteristics
The first of the satisfaction subscales is the local area. This concerns the aesthetics, safety in the neighbourhood and the pace of activity. Retirement villages are usually situated in quiet areas that allow residents to feel safe. Studies have shown that neighbourhood quality has a huge effect in terms of residential satisfaction. Being able to live in a private area with the benefit of being able to come and go as you please is one of the great benefits of living in a retirement village.
Access to Shops and Services
Naturally as people get older and less mobile, proximity to shops, leisure facilities, medical facilities and transport links become more and more important. Within local plans, it is commonly identified as important for any senior housing development to be situated close to established services etc for the benefit of the residents. Retirement villages have onsite support and differing levels of care, which means whilst you are able, you can still live independently, however as you get older retirement villages are set up so that you can get help with shopping etc. They often have onsite dining facilities as well and other services such as hairdressers, gyms and more.
Social Relations with Neighbours
Social relationships with neighbours can have a positive impact on residential satisfaction if people give positive regard to one another, respect each other’s privacy and are mutually helpful. One of the major fears associated with moving into a retirement village is that because you are living in an age-segregated community, you might feel cut off from the world around you. However, studies have shown that by living with people of a similar age, with likely similar interests, this actually encourages social interaction. Many retirement villages often have guest suites so family can stay and often communal rooms so younger members of the community can use them and ensure the village interacts with the wider community outside.
Many mainstream homes are not designed to be accessible because they were built for families in the first instance. For many people the hardest part about leaving a home you have lived in for a number of years is the sense of attachment and the memories you are leaving behind. However, it is important to accept that as we get older, we have differing needs in order to achieve residential satisfaction. Retirement village homes are designed with accessibility in mind so that as you get older it is easier to live in your home. The important thing is to find somewhere that is consistent with what you have previously experienced. If the dwelling environment is consistent with what you have experienced before then you are likely to have a positive association with your new environment. The trade-off is space, but the benefits of being able to meet new people and engage with activities you may not have participated in, in years is not to be underestimated.
All four sub-scales are important considerations for planners and those designing suitable senior housing to support the needs and demands of the ageing population in the UK. In respect of achieving residential satisfaction, how retirees interact with their neighbours appears to be the most convincing measure of happiness and wellbeing out of the four sub-scales. Loneliness is a problem which affects large numbers of retirees in the UK, and retirement villages are a great way to address it.
Sovereign Property Partnership have recently developed an app, Sovereign Assist to encourage interaction and tackle loneliness.
Levels of Senior Housing:
NB although this section focuses on Scotland, the findings of this study are applicable to the rest of the UK in terms of the fact that supply of senior housing is very low, although England has a stronger network of retirement villages at present.
The table below shows that vs the population of over 65’s in Scotland there is only enough senior housing to accommodate 5% of that population across all local authority areas.
By 2040 one in seven people in the UK is projected to be over the age of 75. It is important that as the population continues to age rapidly, more senior housing is built to ensure our retirees have a wide variety of options in later life. At present, later life is usually seen as something to fear and not to embrace. Retirement villages and other forms of senior housing help to ensure that even into our later years we are active, sociable and not susceptible to feelings of isolation and loneliness and that is why it is important to build more.
How do we build more?
In order to build more retirement villages there needs to be more understanding of their benefits amongst policy makers and members of the public. Education is key as once more people learn about retirement villages and are vocal in saying they would be keen to move into them; more developers and operators will be likely to enter the sector. The government can also help by doing things like reducing stamp duty for retirees looking to move into these developments and making it cheaper and easier for developers to build more retirement villages via policy changes.
And don't forget, you can find out more about the benefits of Retirement Living in this Autumna YouTube Live presentation.
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