Spacious homes with gardens, well-lit apartments with balconies - retired people are reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic with a new wish list
Retirement living in the UK is undergoing a revolution through the rising demand for gardens and balconies, for areas to exercise and people to talk to.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many elderly people living a lonely existence - with tragic numbers of deaths in care homes.
Against the backdrop of an ageing population and increased life expectancy, estate agents are reporting a rise in demand among retired and elderly people for homes offering a better quality of life.
There is one UK development that was ahead of the curve. Scalesceugh Hall & Villas in Cumbria has been offering lifestyle-led retirement living for ages 55-plus for the past couple of years.
Situated in a beautiful rural setting next to a nature reserve, but within short reach of both the historical city of Carlisle and The Lake District National Park, Scalesceugh has been attracting homeowners from across the UK.
Established and run by Bruno and Dr Anita Herdeiro, the development offers 13 Scandinavian-style eco-villas and 15 luxury apartments in the adjacent Edwardian hall - many with balconies. A Spa and Wellness Centre is also opening in the beautiful grounds.
Homeowners have been able to walk round three acres of well-kept gardens throughout the coronavirus pandemic, getting their daily exercise and continuing to interact at a safe distance with other people.
'The time is now, to make the most of your life'
Anita has continued to work as a GP throughout the pandemic. While she has been through a testing time, she has gained solace from knowing that Scalesceugh homeowners have found it easier than most in their age group.
“Covid, in my experience, has helped people re-evaluate their lives,” says Dr Herdeiro. “It has helped with the decision making, with understanding that the time is now, to make the most of your life.
“With retirement homes and care homes having a large proportion of the total Covid deaths, it has really created a shake-up in understanding where people want to live in later life.
“People want to live in a community, where they can help each other, where there is a support system, where the home is future-proofed, where there is open space and nature to enjoy.”
Anita reflects: "Many of us used to think that being in a town, in a generic block of apartments, was the right way to have retirement living.
"The fear of downsizing from a lovely country home with stunning gardens, prohibited people from moving, and therefore they would continue staying in a house which was not fit for purpose and would end up costing more - becoming a burden and not an enjoyment.
“With Scalesceugh, we realised that people should still enjoy gardens, but not feel the burden of increasing care and maintenance. Many of our villas have gardens, they all have outdoor space, and homeowners can also enjoy the stately grounds. Some have got involved in creating a vegetable patch.”
Lifestyle living at the heart of a happy retirement
Community and lifestyle are at the heart of Scalesceugh’s reinventing of retirement. The hall has hosted art and music events, and concierge services have been critical in providing needs for homeowners through the lockdown.
The opening of The Sanctuary spa and wellbeing centre will bring a new set of social and life-enhancing features, from a swimming pool to personalised activity plans and a cafe.
The homes themselves also act as a blueprint for what the new retirement living should look like.
There are many health benefits of natural light, for example. It boosts serotonin - our happy hormone - to combat depression, and also increases levels of Vitamin D.
Retirement flats do not allow much natural light to flood in, but the Scalesceugh villas were designed with huge front windows, imported from Denmark. This also helps to reduce lighting and heating bills for homeowners.
Eco homes improving health and cutting bills
The Covid era has also heightened environmental awareness, and Scalesceugh reports a keen interest by viewers to find out more about eco features.
Each Scalesceugh home has an air-source heat pump, the benefits of which include lower carbon emissions, lower fuel bills and a consistent temperature throughout the home - which is better for our respiratory systems.
Dr Herdeiro adds: “We believe strongly in sustainability. Our ethos is about being prepared better for the future, learning from the Nordic countries, which have embraced ageing as an opportunity to look at how we live our lives and how to create preventative models to address ageing and wellbeing.”
Scalesceugh homeowners can also receive individually-tailored care packages, and attractively, there are no exit fees should owners wish to move on and sell their homes.
Anita adds: "The UK has fallen behind in providing options and choices in retirement. People are now living 20 to 30 years more than they used to.
"In other countries the attitude towards retirement is seen as a time to enjoy the fruits of your labour, and do the things you could not do before.
“We want to create exceptional places with exceptional services - because we want people to enjoy their later years.”