Over the last two years you may have heard us envisaging a new set-up for a Living Place to suit ‘a certain age’ as the French say, making somewhere to retire to – on a pension – and continue working (writing, drawing, boat-building) alongside like-minded friends. Either we start from scratch or we develop an existing property, forging a place to grow older in, with the emphasis on grow, not diminish!
Would you give the following some thought over Christmas and tell us if you think it could be achieved, both as an ideal and practically, especially if you know of a site or a similar scheme we could look into? How interested would you be in such a scheme?
What and where the living might be designed: Greg thinks in terms of individual dwellings grouped around a courtyard, each with its own front door and private garden, linked to spaces used in common. We hope to live with friends, most of whom are Londoners at present, and may be so for ten more years, so where to look? Our first move is to ‘model’ both an urban (more likely, suburban) and a rural solution, according to sites we spot in 2012.
What model have we got so far? When Greg’s mother, Jane, moved to a smaller house in an award-winning settlement (www.englishcourtyardassociation.org.uk) we sensed there was a comfort factor in also having some shared premises: a well-kept central garden, guest rooms, garage block, laundry and the presence of a site manager. We too would like shared elements, some provision in common – perhaps a library with office equipment, a meeting room big enough for special occasions – and good outdoor spaces, even a kitchen garden. Tennis court and swimming pool have been suggested by sporty friends, perhaps more importantly, some artists’ workrooms. While it is hard to imagine giving up certain things we own, we would be interested in a pooled car and trailer and/or tractor (!) and in purchasing collectively some of the goods and services we all require. On this basis, care, whether visiting or live-in, could be shared. Crucially the place should be close to transport links and to a wider community with shops, services, connections and attractions – supply your own description.
Residents and tenants would not have to be elderly to live there, but the layout and design of accommodation would offer flexibility to the increasingly old and less mobile who seek a quiet life for the long term. While living space will be designed to adapt gradually to our greater reliance on assistance, we want the whole place to give a sense of home without it being a “Home” to encourage friends and family members to come often and be part of our lives, especially when they alter and we face difficult decisions about provision for our later years.
How to make it work? We have a group of 8 to 10 households in mind, where one or two units would be for rent, thus generating income to maintain grounds and facilities. Workshop/studio space might also be rented rather than bought outright. Greg has long design experience in housing provision and in the planning process that affects development. Clearly the issue of ‘retirement homes’ is gathering momentum so we are not alone in trying to design and finance a scheme. Will you tell us what you think? Jot down what opportunities you consider shared ‘retirement’ housing offers, your views on your parents’ housing needs since they retired from active service, and your words of caution, just as useful! Do you know of anyone who has already done this? Where? How did they finance it? Is it working? We have started looking at funding and the relationship between leaseholders and a Trust or management company. Mostly the signs are good, and now is a good time to look for property while we still have credit ratings.
Immediately enthusiastic? Email us in the first flush of your enthusiasm. Meanwhile, hoping that mulling it over doesn’t give you indigestion, we wish you very happy mulling.
KM and GP Dec 2011