Pensioners buy their own retirement village

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The residents of Woodchester Valley Village, a retirement village near Stroud, have bought the freehold of the village, after deciding they didn't want it to be run by a private company, because they could do a better job themselves.

So what happened, and could this be the future of retirement in the UK?


Take over

The 69-house village was previously known as the Crystal Fountain Retirement Village. It had been run by a private company, but the firm went bust three years ago and it was put into the hands of the administrators. The BBC reported that the residents decided they didn't want it to be sold onto another private company who would be free to rip them off. They felt they could do a better job themselves, so they approached the administrators and bought the freehold.

The negotiations and fundraising process took three years, and is just nearing completion. The Residents' Association chairman told the Daily Mail that the residents had raised the £2 million they needed for the freehold without the need for a bank loan, because of the generosity of their friends, children and even grandchildren.

The future?

The village will be run as a not-for-profit mutual. It's a first for the UK, but the residents said they felt it could provide a model for others who were felt they could do a better job than a private company. The fact that the village is designed for active retired people means they were in a position to take on the management of the village.

It offers independent living for retirees, with additional assistance if they need it, and staff available 24 hours a day. There's an annual management fee of £5,000 to cover the cost of services and communal areas.

The cost is pretty average for this sort of thing. Among the other 80 odd retirement villages in the UK, the management charge ranges from around £1,200 a year to £7,200 a year - depending on the services that are included. However, what appeals to the residents about running things themselves is that they can be certain that the costs will not rise faster than inflation - because there's no additional profit margin factored into any annual price rise.

Retirement villages are one of the fastest-growing forms of elderly care in the UK. They appeal to active retired people, who have privacy and independence, with the comfort of help if it is needed, and the social advantages of living with like-minded people.

They aren't for everyone. The service charges can be prohibitive. In addition, when people need more assistance, the village may have on-site facilities, but residents will have to pay for services themselves, which could prove expensive. And if their needs get more acute they may need to move on into a traditional nursing home.

The options

However, the addition of a mutual model to the portfolio offers more choice for the three quarters of a million people reaching retirement every year. There are almost 4,000 nursing homes and 10,000 residential homes in the UK. There are also now over 80 retirement villages - one of which is run as a mutual. It may appeal particularly to those 415,000 people over the age of 65 receiving care in their homes, the 82,000 receiving day care and the 56,000 receiving meals.

However, sadly, they are unable to come anywhere near meeting the needs of the 1.5 million people that Age UK says need help to continue living safely in their homes, but do not receive any help from anyone.