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New research reveals that living among friendly neighbours is the key to happiness in retirement

A survey conducted by housing and care provider Anchor, reveals that living amongst neighbours who will ‘pass the time of day’ is one of the most significant contributors to happiness in retirement. And that living in a community in which people make eye contact, say hello or stop for a quick conversation was more significant than financial gain when making a downsizing move.

The research report was designed to assess the most significant factors which contribute to feelings of happiness and wellbeing amongst downsizers in the UK today.

Alison Frankel, 77, resident at Anchor’s Bishopstoke Park, comments: “In my previous home, which I lived in for 22 and half years, I hardly knew my neighbours. I don’t do any online social media or emailing, so face to face contact is my way of socialising.

“I always pass the time of day with neighbours I pass in the grounds or one of the corridors and make a particular point of doing so with those living with the first stages of dementia. Having a chat with a neighbour is so important for keeping the mind active. I look after my neighbour’s pets whilst they are on holiday and it’s nice to know that we live in a community in which there is a neighbourly sense of trust and care – we all help each other out.” 

Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor, said: “Although our retirement villages’ on-site home care teams are an integral part of what we offer, we have found that residents help each other with small day-to-day tasks which may otherwise be outsourced to a carer.

“Acts of neighbourly goodwill such as stopping by for a chat, or offering to help with feeding a pet or watering plants if a neighbour is going on holiday, may no longer  be so commonplace in wider society. However, in our communities in which everyone is of similar age and like-mind, these small acts of kindness have become part of the social framework and mean the world to an older person, who may otherwise have to rely upon professional help for small chores or companionship.”

The importance of neighbourly goodwill also contributed to another of the key findings – that having non-familial support on hand can be preferable to living with family themselves. The residents surveyed reported that whilst moving into a relative’s home or ‘granny flat’ annexe might make them feel like a burden, an independent home, with support in place, avoided feelings of guilt associated with putting a strain on family members.

Independence to make decisions was also ranked highly as a key contributor to feelings of happiness in retirement, with those surveyed reporting that being able to continue to live a ‘normal’ life, in the same way as they had done prior to downsizing, was fundamental to their decision to move. Whilst few reported financial motivations as a key catalyst to deciding to downsize, the predictability of monthly outgoings which comes with moving to a contemporary development, was highly rated.

Anchor is England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care, providing services to almost 40,000 older people in over 1,000 locations. The focus group research was carried out at Hampshire Lakes, one of the provider’s three retirement villages. Hampshire Lakes is set in woodlands alongside Yateley Lakes, between Yateley and Sandhurst, in Hampshire.  The development includes 74 independent living apartments (one and two bed) and a 36 room care home, Willow Gardens, on site.

The second phase of the development will add a further 45 apartments (one and two bed) to the village. At the heart of Hampshire Lakes is the village centre, the focal point of community life, which includes Senses, a state-of-the art Wellness Centre and Spa, with its indoor pool and first-class gymnasium. Adjacent to the Wellness Centre sits the Lakeside Bistro, Zest Juice Bar and Cotton’s Delicatessen. The luxurious development facilities also include a hair dressing salon, library and landscaped gardens. The domiciliary care research encompasses analysis across Hampshire Lakes, Bishopstoke Park and Denham Garden Village. www.anchor.org.uk