There is currently much debate in the United Kingdom policy and practice literature about how best to respond to the care and accommodation needs of people as they retire and grow older. Against a policy background which espouses the benefits of ‘lifetime homes and lifetime neighbourhoods’, the growth of purpose-built segregated retirement villages looks somewhat contradictory and is set to transform the housing scene. Whilst there has been considerable research into these environments in countries like the United States of America and Australia, we know comparatively little about what it is like to live in British retirement communities, how they evolve over time and whether they enhance people's lifestyle aspirations and quality of life. This paper examines these issues through the lens of ‘community’ and in the context of Denham Garden Village: a purpose-built retirement village in Buckinghamshire. Drawing on a range of qualitative data (from individual and group interviews, diaries and directives), we focus on how ‘community’ was conceptualised, experienced and understood both ‘then’ (in the early days of the village) and ‘now’ (subsequent to its redevelopment). The findings enable us to examine the extent to which ‘community’ evolves over time and raise important questions about how socially cohesive, or not, such retirement villages are.
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