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The pros and cons of retirement villages

Retirement villages are large developments built especially for older people. We explain what they can offer.
5 min read
In this article
What to expect from a retirement village Retirement villages and sheltered accommodation: what is the difference? Do retirement villages offer care and support?
The pros and cons of retirement villages 10 questions to ask before choosing a retirement property Downsizing checklists

What to expect from a retirement village

Retirement villages (or retirement homes) are large developments built especially for older people. They usually consist of more than 100 properties, with a range of different accommodation types, including houses, bungalows and apartments. They are often located in attractive rural settings.

Most retirement villages promote a luxury lifestyle, offering a variety of leisure facilities, such as swimming pools, spas, restaurants and bars, plus a range of social activities.

Fewer than 1% of people over the state pension age in the UK currently live in purpose-built retirement communities, but they are becoming increasingly popular.

Retirement villages and sheltered accommodation: what is the difference?

At a basic level, retirement villages and sheltered housing are similar; both offer housing developments designed for older people who want to continue to live independently.

The main difference is that retirement villages offer premium facilities in an attractive environment and, as a consequence, are usually more costly.

They are generally aimed at people who want to enjoy an independent lifestyle, and some may not be suited to people who require a higher level of care or supervision. However, some developments do provide access to additional care and support facilities – at an extra cost – so it’s worth investigating all the options within retirement villages.

Do retirement villages offer care and support?

The majority of properties in retirement villages are designed for independent living, but some offer access to care and support for those that need it. This might include assisted living apartments or access to a dedicated domiciliary care service that can provide home help or personal care. Some schemes also have a care homes on site, should people require more care in the future. 

Many retirement villages also provide facilities to promote general health and fitness, including gyms, exercise classes, massage and physiotherapy.

If you’re thinking about a retirement home make sure that it offers the care and support you require, and think about future care needs if possible. If you’re moving into a scheme that offers a bespoke home care service for residents, find out if you would be required to use the scheme’s own service should you need extra support in future – or would you be able to choose an external care provider if you wish to?

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The pros and cons of retirement villages


Checklist (ticks)
  • Freedom: the freedom to live independently in your own home.
  • Facilities: most have excellent social and leisure facilities.
  • Staying together: the opportunity to stay with your partner, who may have different care needs.
  • Making friends: opportunities to socialise with other residents of a similar age.
  • Enjoyment of communal areas: with no responsibility to maintain gardens or facilities.
  • No hassles with repairs or maintenance: these are usually dealt with by the scheme provider.
  • Safety and security: the community aspect of retirement villages may feel safer than living alone.
  • Guest suites: most villages have apartments available for friends and family to rent when they come to visit.
  • Future care: some offer home help and personal care or even on-site care homes.


Checklist (crosses)
  • Limited medical care: not all retirement villages offer options for nursing or medical care.
  • Cost: you pay more for luxury – homes in retirement communities are generally more expensive than properties on the open market. 
  • Private funding: most retirement village properties must be bought or rented privately and are not eligible for public funding.
  • Service charges: most retirement villages charge monthly or annual fees for maintaining the communal areas and providing facilities. These can be hefty so make sure you know what they are before signing up.
  • Extra fees: there can be some hidden costs that are worth knowing about before buying, including exit or transfer fees.
  • Reduced space: if residents are downsizing from a larger property, there may not be space for all their possessions and furniture. 
  • Lack of diversity: some people might not want to live in a development exclusively for older people.

Before deciding to move into a retirement village, find out all you can about any hidden costs and fees that might be involved.

10 questions to ask before choosing a retirement property

If you’re researching retirement villages, ask yourself the following questions when you visit to help decide if it’s the right move for you.


How do property prices compare with sheltered housing or other similar-sized properties in your area?


Can you afford to buy privately? Our article on the hidden costs of retirement homes talks you through some of the unexpected costs you need to consider.


What is the age limit? Some retirement villages have a lower age limit of 55 years, others say you need to be over 60 years old. If you’re planning to move with your partner, do you both qualify?


If you have pets, can you take them? Not all developments will allow animals.


What are the service charges? This could make quite a difference to what you pay.


Which bills are included? How much extra will you have to pay for the bills that aren’t included?


Is there space to keep a car if you have one?


What facilities and activities are there on offer? Are these included in the cost?


Is there a guest suite or somewhere for friends and family to stay when they visit? How much does this cost?


Does the scheme offer any on-site services for residents who need additional care or medical support? And if you need extra care in the future, will you be free to make your own arrangements if you wish to? 


Use our directory to find local care homes, home care agencies and carer support services across the UK.


Downsizing checklists


Moving to a retirement village might mean that you’re downsizing and maybe also moving to another area. Download our downsizing checklist for ideas about what to consider.

Downsizing checklists
(pdf 49 Kb)



Further reading

Why should you downsize?

The pros and cons of downsizing to a smaller home, or to sheltered accommodation or a retirement village.

Last updated: 21 Apr 2021