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‘That lot up there and us down here’: social interaction and a sense of community in a mixed tenure UK retirement village

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2009

SIMON EVANS*
Affiliation:
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK.
*
Address for correspondence: Simon Evans, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, BristolBS16 1QY, UK. Email: Simon.Evans@uwe.ac.uk

Abstract

Retirement villages have been slow to emerge as a housing model for older people in the United Kingdom (UK) but the sector is now growing rapidly, with an increasing number of both private and not-for-profit developers entering the market. Research findings to date have indicated high levels of satisfaction among residents, but commentators have criticised this form of provision on the grounds that they are only an option for the better off. This paper reports a study of a retirement village that has attempted to address this issue by integrating residents from a range of socio-economic backgrounds and by making various tenures available in the same development. The paper begins with a brief history of retirement villages in the UK and an overview of the concept of community, including those of communities of place and interest and their role in social policy. The presented findings highlight a number of factors that impact on a resident's sense of community, including social interaction, the development of friendships, the built environment and the existence of common interests. The discussion focuses on the development of cross-tenure social networks and how residents' health and social status shapes community experience. It is concluded that the clustering model of mixed tenure is likely to emphasise differences in the socio-economic backgrounds of residents and that the success of retirement villages as communities depends on grasping the subtleties of the diversity of later life.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 Cambridge University Press

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