Bigger is better; retirees are demanding more space not less when they move reports JANE SLADE
After nearly 50 years as a foreign correspondent with the BBC and Sky News Christopher Morris has accumulated a lot of stuff. In fact, he has converted one of the four bedrooms in the new home he and his wife have moved to into a study and storage for his documents and cuttings dating back to when he was born in 1938.
Buying a three-storey home at Wiltshire Leisure Village, a New England style community of bespoke houses and bungalows designed for the over 55s, would seem to contradict the perception that people want to downsize as they get older. But in fact Chris and Mary are fuelling a trend that many want more space when they retire, not less.
Wiltshire Leisure Village, near Royal Wootton Bassett, has an on-site manager and 24-hour security and is being developed by former newspaper tycoon Eddy Shah and his wife Jennifer. “We don’t believe people should have to retire into little boxes,” says Eddy best known as the gritty businessman who took on the print unions and founded Today, Britain’s first all colour national newspaper, back in 1986.
“Our buyers have worked hard throughout their lives and we want to give them the space to both entertain and keep their family ethos alive,”
Eddy’s wife Jennifer, wheelchair bound after cancer treatment caused spinal damage 30 years ago, has made sure all the houses are wheelchair friendly, and have a downstairs bathroom and space for a lift. She has even designed some supersize bungalows for those who want to live the life – on a level.
“We decided to change the build strategy at Wiltshire Leisure Village to include five luxury bungalows of up to 3000 sq ft each,” she says. “Bungalows aimed at retirees are a rarity these days and we wanted to pioneer a new lifestyle concept – large homes within a buzzing community filled with the very best leisure facilities.”
Chris and Mary have moved four times in eight years and had been to see 40 properties before deciding on a large house with views of the countryside.
“We wanted somewhere that didn’t look like a retirement village but a lovely safe place we could call our last home with enough space for our stuff and our family,” Chris explains who admits he has aversion to decluttering. It took the couple four months to unpack 167 boxes.
“So many properties were like matchboxes jammed together with no views. We wanted somewhere spacious in the country and WLV is next to a golf course and all sorts of great leisure facilities, gym, pilates classes, beauty salon and lovely scenery.”
The couple have installed a lift which has already been useful for lugging Chris’s boxes of memorabilia upstairs (the rest are stored in the garage) and will be ideal for their grandson who has special needs, and eventually for them should they need it.
Chris and Mary spend five months a year at their cortijo in Almeria in Spain, and moved from their home in Ringwood as they felt cut off in the New Forest. “We wanted to becloser to the M4 corridor; airports and our children; one of whom lives in France,” Mary explains.
“We also wanted a modern home – old properties need a lot more looking after and open plan downstairs to entertain. This size home would normally cost around £800,000 locally but we paid just £475,000; we paid £16,000 extra for a garage and £13,000 for the lift but it still seemed good value.” (properties at Wiltshire Leisure Village are priced from £475,000 Humberts.co.uk)
Then there are retirees who are buying two apartments and knocking them into one to accommodate their social and health needs.
A professional couple in their 70s has done just that at PegasusLife’s Seaford development.
“We have bought more for aspiration more than need,” explains the academic owner who still works full time (and prefers to remain anonymous).
“My wife and I wanted four bedrooms and by doing this it means one bedroom can be a work station and accommodate my 2000 books and there is room for our two grandchildren when they come to stay.
“When you get to our age you realise that you both need convergent and divergent social needs. My wife can have a group of her friends in one part of the house and I can work undisturbed in the other.”
In the future it also means they can accommodate a carer who can have his/her own kitchen and bathroom. And if one of them should die they can then reconfigure the apartments and sell one.
“Most of all it means that if we have different needs we can still lead two lives – together.”
PegasusLife’s Customer Experience Director Clare Bacchus says they are designing homes for people who want an aga in the kitchen, fewer bedrooms but larger living spaces with lots of light.
“We are attracting retirees who want to customise their homes; and still want to live the life but in an apartment.” www.pegasuslife.co.uk