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What are the different types of retirement accommodation?

Esther Shaw / 02 March 2015

Choosing where to live in your older years used to be a decision left till late in the day, but it is never too early to start thinking about the options available should you – or a relative – need to leave home.

Mature couple sat in field
There is a host of practical and emotional issues to consider when choosing retirement accommodation

One of the biggest issues for you – and family members – to think about is the financial aspect, as there are huge costs associated with going in to care. There is also a host of practical and emotional issues to consider as well.

Here we look at some of the pros and cons of the different types of retirement accommodation available.

Assisted living


• Assisted living bridges the gap between conventional independent retirement living and moving in to a residential care home or nursing home.

• This type of living, in a purpose-built home or retirement community, allows you to maintain privacy and independence, and gives you the freedom to do what you want, and when.

• At the same time, you get the peace of mind of knowing there is extra support on hand if you need it.

• Wardens will be around to help with certain daily activities, such as cooking and cleaning, if required.

• This type of retirement accommodation tends to be more affordable than moving into a residential home or nursing home, though costs will depend on the size of property you choose, and whether you opt for an upmarket village or a simpler apartment with fewer bells and whistles.

• One of the big advantages of assisted living is that couples can still live together, even if one partner needs more care than the other. This also gives the partner doing the caring some much-needed respite from time to time.

• You can often take your own furniture and possessions with you, enabling you to help create familiar and comfortable surroundings.

• There may be shared facilities which you can make use of, such as cafes, shops and gardens, and you may also enjoy the social aspect of living in proximity to others of a similar age.

10 great reasons to live in a retirement village.


• While assisted living gives you some independence, there may still be some rules to follow in regard to pets, smoking and visitors.

• You may also find it hard to downsize to a smaller home, and may miss the neighbours and friends who used to live around you, as well as the local amenities.

• While wardens offer support, you may not be able to get access to any specialised medical care you may need.

• If your health circumstances change and you end up requiring additional care, it is likely that you will need to move again– which could cause significant upheaval.

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Residential home care


• In a residential home (a home without nursing care), you will get help with personal care. This could include assistance with meals, washing, dressing, going to the toilet and taking medication.

• As well as accommodation and meals, you can benefit from additional services, such as cleaning.

• Homes offer safe and secure communities where staff are always around, meaning you shouldn’t feel lonely.

• There may also be a timetable of organised activities, such as bingo, talks and music sessions.

• This type of home is a useful option if residential care is only needed temporarily. This might be required if, say, someone is recovering from an illness or operation.

• It can also offer family carers a break if the person they are looking after goes into a residential home for a few days or weeks.


• Residential home care is costly, though not quite as expensive as a nursing home.  According to PayingForCare, residential care homes can cost an average of £28,500 a year.

• You will have to adjust to being an institutional way of life, and there may be rules setting out when you can – and can’t – have visitors.

• Generally speaking, your only personal space will be your own room, which may mean a loss of privacy. Equally, all your belongings will need to fit into that room, and you may not be able to take your own furniture or possessions with you.

Can you avoid care home fees?

Nursing homes


• Nursing homes offer the highest level of care from qualified medical professionals including registered nurses and experienced care assistants.  Some homes may specialise in certain type of disability or conditions, such as dementia.

• If health problems require constant attention, staff will be on site to care for you round-the-clock.  This can give both you – and family members – great peace of mind that you are getting the best possible care and attention.

• At the same time, staff will work to support residents in doing things for themselves, and maximising their independence.

• As with residential homes, there may be a host of organised group activities which you can take part in if you so wish. This can help you feel part of a community and should help to avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.


• Nursing homes can be very expensive.  Figures from PayingForCare show annual costs can average £37,500 per year if nursing is required.

• You will have to follow the home’s routine which may well be very regimented, and visitors may only be permitted at certain times.

• You may experience a loss of space and privacy when you essentially only have your own bedroom to yourself, as other areas such as the dining room and living room are likely to be communal areas. You may not be allowed to take many personal possessions with you, so may feel disorientated without the familiarity of being surrounded by your own belongings.

Help your loved ones keep their independence at home with Saga SOS Personal Alarm service, part of Saga Healthcare. No start-up costs, no delivery charges and the first month is FREE. Find out more here


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.