Friday, 4 January 2019

Maybe Mum and Dad should move home?

Enjoying retirement in a new home
When we were young we all desperately wanted to be older – as teenagers we longed to be adult. It would, we thought, give us all sorts of things that we just didn’t have as kids. A home of our own being one of them.

Now that we’re older and that home is either a reality or coming within reach, is being adult all that we dreamed it would be? Do we sometimes wish we were younger again?

And surely by the time we reach our 60s and 70s we would like to turn the clock back, for all sorts of reasons?

Well, apparently not. Research shows that we are at our happiest once we’ve turned 65. So, if you’ve not yet reached that age, you have something to look forward to!

But when we reach our sixties we need to start thinking of what the future will bring. Retirement and all that comes with it can be a ‘watershed’ moment, opening up new opportunities – not least in our choice of home.

And if that is not yet you, maybe it is something your parents are experiencing?

For most of history, people spent their whole lives in small communities. Few people moved away from the village where they were born. Several generations of the same family would share a home. Those who moved out were usually living just around the corner in a home shared with several generations of the family of a husband or wife.

That’s not the way of things in Britain today. Children grow up and leave home in pursuit of education or jobs. They often end up living miles from their parents. Which is fine for them and their parents – until the parents pass a milestone age (60? 65? 70?) at which some rethinking may be needed.

Maybe it would be better if the family were closer together again? Would that make life easier – if not now, perhaps in the future?

But, let’s face it, you probably don’t want Mum and Dad moving into the spare bedroom. Perhaps somewhere a little closer to hand than where they live at present, though?

Now, they may be nowhere near ready to move into a care home. They are still fit and well and enjoying retired life with the freedoms it brings. But maybe thinking ahead would be good. In fact, the right choice of housing in retirement could (research shows) postpone the time when people do need a care home, perhaps by several years.

That’s why there is an increasing interest in age-exclusive developments that are designed for those who have retired or are planning to do so in the next few years.

These communities are built to meet the housing needs of people of a certain age – some are for people ‘over 55’, others ‘over 60’. The idea is the same, regardless of the exact age limit.

They provide the over-55s or over-60s (whether retired or still working) with independence based on owning and living in their own homes combined with the health and social benefits of being part of a community.

Research by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that communities such as the ones that Larkfleet creates under The Croft brand – with their opportunities for social interaction and engagement – can reduce social isolation, with consequent benefits to health, well-being and quality of life.

Communities such as The Croft can provide a wide range of different resident-led interest groups and a wide pool of people from which to draw friends and companions.

Studies have also found real community support for residents in developments such as The Croft. For example, neighbours will often help with activities such as shopping. The community will provide support for everyone through formal or informal ‘neighbourhood watch schemes’ and similar arrangements.

That’s a benefit not just for the residents but for their wider families, knowing that someone is keeping an eye on Mum and Dad. And also knowing that the older generation is not feeling lonely and isolated but actively enjoying a good social life.

If that is happening just a short distance from home, rather than on the far side of the country, it makes the whole notion of family support so much easier.

The research which shows we are happiest in our retirement years suggests that one of the reasons we are not so happy in the years leading up to our retirement may be that we not only have to look after our own kids, but we are under pressure to invest time in looking after parents too.

So, a move to The Croft could be a ‘win:win’ – good for everyone.