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// Industry Insights

Reimagining retirement: Creating innovative living solutions for retirees

Gareth Cayford, Director of Retirement at The FirstPort Group, discusses how the focus on retirement living should be about enhancing existing developments to support residents and Right to Manage (RTM) companies, while providing new offerings for the next generation of retirees. 

Changing retirement trends 

We’ve witnessed a significant shift in traditional retirement notions as a new generation of retirees enter this phase of life, bringing with them different expectations and lifestyle choices. One of the major catalysts for change is how people want to interact with their neighbours and communities, which has challenged the conventional retirement model prompting a transformation in community dynamics. 

When looking at the use of communal spaces, which are the heartbeat of retirement communities, a more traditional setting is centred around a single lounge that’s designed to host events like a weekly coffee morning.  In a more modern retirement living set-up, we’re seeing communal spaces that are more adaptable and accommodating to different ways of entertaining and more active lifestyles, essentially a more integrated retirement living solution. 

Integrating the old with the new 

The challenge for retirement living managers and RTM companies in more traditional settings lies in ensuring that developments appeal to new customers while still meeting the needs of existing ones. This often entails modernising older communal spaces, a process that should involve ongoing consultation with residents to make sure it meets their needs.  Recently, one of our developments in Devon responded to residents’ feedback by revitalising their outdated lounge, resulting in a more vibrant and inviting space for existing and future residents to enjoy and a place where the Development Manager could revamp their community engagement programme. 

A proactive manager will consistently refresh activity programmes, collaborating with local businesses to offer diverse options ranging from exercise classes and arts and crafts events to educational workshops. The flexibility of such environments allows residents to engage at their own pace, with Development Managers providing support and encouragement tailored to individual residents’ needs. 

Technology matters 

Technology plays a pivotal role in appealing to the next generation of retirees who are tech-savvy and have high expectations regarding development amenities. Solutions aimed at enhancing convenience and connectivity, such as shared Wi-Fi access, are essential, not only because residents don’t want to live without them, but because they can provide significant cost savings for residents by utilising economies of scale.  

The 2025 digital switchover gives us a unique opportunity to advance emergency call systems and introduce smart home features such as self-test fire equipment and light testing and can provide opportunities for us to introduce virtual socialisation tools to help people stay connected, not just with their neighbours, but people further afield.  

A new retirement living model 

We have recently partnered with innovative retirement living provider Platinum Skies, part of the Affordable Housing & Healthcare Group (AHH), to oversee six vibrant communities across Dorset, Wiltshire, and Somerset through a shared-ownership model. 

Each community is equipped with a range of facilities including a bistro, bar, lounge, activity room, treatment room, and the support of an on-site Community Manager to foster a connected community. The shift in focus from a traditional Development Manager to a Community Manager role is directly linked with the change in focus we’re now witnessing in our retirement communities. Newer buildings allow for a shift in focus, less on the time-consuming elements of keeping an older building well-maintained, and more on the role of building relationships with customers and making sure their retirement is vibrant and fulfilling. 

Outside influences  

As retirees navigate financial pressures, a big priority for property managers and RTM companies is to maintain manageable service charges without compromising lifestyle or community. New models of retirement living, such as shared ownership, appeal to baby boomers who want to use cash for leisure. They provide an opportunity for a different service offer, moving away from every resident contributing the same amount to communal living, regardless of whether they participate in activities or not, to providing a menu of activities they can choose from and contribute to on their own terms. 

Growing interest in environmental sustainability among younger retirees confirms the importance of making sure we consider how retirement communities can prioritise eco-friendly practices such as energy efficiency and sustainable landscaping. This too has an impact on the bottom line, as we can review how we use external contractors, involving residents in these decisions.  

There is a growing need to recognise and review what we’re doing in retirement living settings that cater to evolving preferences, technological advancements, financial considerations, and environmental consciousness while prioritising community engagement and resident satisfaction. We’re really excited about the conversations we’re having with new developers entering the market and RTM companies we are supporting on how we can reimagine retirement living and reinvigorate our offer for retirees of the future.