There is no better place to find romance in later life than in a retirement community says JANE SLADE
Every Valentine’s Day 98 year old Oz Cottam Moss receives three Valentine’s cards from her partner Morgan Kenny. One at breakfast, one at lunch and another at supper.
“The effect of one card disappears quickly,” explains Morgan, 91, a retired university lecturer and poet. “Reminders rekindle the special warmth deep inside.”
You drive down two miles of tree-decorated road, past grassy hills and duck-spotted lakes to arrive at the Elizabethan splendour of Danny House nestling against sky-reaching hills
The couple were both widowed when they met at Danny House, a rental retirement village in Sussex, 14 years ago.
“Danny House is a lovely place to conduct a romance,” says Morgan, who enjoys gentle walks with Oz and visits to the theatre travelling by train from Hurstpierpoint to Brighton.
“You drive down two miles of tree-decorated road, past grassy hills and duck-spotted lakes to arrive at the Elizabethan splendour of Danny House nestling against sky-reaching hills,” he waxes.
Even though Danny has sprinkled its romantic dust on the couple – they share a stunning two-bedroom apartment, with a huge sitting room costing £4,000 a month including utility bills and meals, – Canadian-born Oz has no wish to marry her lover.
“I am happy to live in sin with my toyboy,” she says with a twinkle. Well, she has been married three times – to a diplomat, an admiral and a businessman and been widowed twice.
Danny House could be said to be infused with romance. It was the former home of the late Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who lived there with his wife Margaret and his mistress/secretary Frances Stephenson – all sleeping under the same roof.
It was also where on 13 October 1918 Lloyd George chaired a conference attended by Winston Churchill in the Great Hall which brought an end to the First World War. But in 1957 it was converted into a retirement community of 20 properties.
“Danny is more of a country club than retirement village,” explains owner Richard Burrows who bought the grade I listed Elizabeth house for £3million in 2005. “Everyone is very sociable and there are lots of opportunities for friendships to flourish.” There are currently two one-bed apartments to rent at Danny costing £3,000 a month for a couple or £2,800 for a single person (www.dannyhouse.org.uk)
Brenda Faulkner, 76, was not even looking for romance when she moved into a rented studio in St Clements Court, a development for the over 55s, in Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset. She had spent most of her married life caring for her sick husband Ian who died in 2012 and moved to the Anchor scheme be near her daughter.
“I met John the day I moved in,” she says. “I thought he was just being neighbourly when he invited me to lunch at the local supermarket.”
Retired coach driver, John Robertson, 71, pursued Brenda, who has four children and 22 grandchildren, but happily the feeling was mutual. On Valentine’s Day 2016 she proposed. “Well it was as leap year,” she explained.
The couple married in November and moved into a one-bed apartment at the development.
“I feel so lucky to have found John. He gives me strength particularly recently as I have been very ill,” she adds. “The children idolise him and even call him dad.
“I never imagined this would happen to me. It is wonderful having him in my life – he is so caring even though he isn’t well himself. But I would never have met him had I not moved here.”
St Clements Court, is two miles from the seafront and has 32 studio apartments, five one-beds and one two-bed. Monthly rents start at £512.37. (www.anchor.org.uk)
“A full schedule of social events, including coffee mornings, quizzes and themed dinner and drinks events at our developments with on-site restaurants, help residents to get to know one another,” says Howard Nankivell, Anchor’s Housing Operations Director. “As a result, new friendships quickly blossom and in some cases, develop into something more.”
The was certainly the case with Geoffrey Morton, 81, and June Smith, 76, who moved to Retirement Villages Blagdon Village in Taunton Somerset with their respective spouses in 2007.
Sadly June’s husband Tom died seven months after they had settled into their two-bedroom apartment and Geoffrey’s wife Freda died in 2012.
“I got to know Jean as we were on the residents committee and had similar interests,” said Geoffrey, a retired publisher.
Then in 2014 Geoffrey took the plunge and proposed to June at the top of the Eiffel Tower and announced to the other residents of their plans to marry.
June, a former legal secretary, sold her apartment and moved into Geoffrey’s roomy two-bedroom chalet bungalow. “We had a real job trying to squeeze all our belongings into one home. But we managed it and on our first day I made sure I carried June over the threshold.”
Blagdon Village has 85 apartments, bungalows and cottages and is next to Exmoor National Park. Two-bedroom apartments start from £240,000 and facilities include a restaurant, bar, library, hairdressers and guest suite (www.retirementvillages.co.uk).
“Love, friendship and relationships do blossom and are a natural part of village life,” says Paul Walsh, Retirement Villages care and operations manager. “But over the years we have only seen a handful of actual marriages between two existing residents.”
“We do feel blessed at finding each other,” adds Geoffrey, “But we never forget our previous spouses – June was married for 42 years and I for 53 – and we have their photos on display.”