Ageing and Society

Articles

Exploring the age-friendliness of purpose-built retirement communities: evidence from England

JENNIFER LIDDLEa1 c1, THOMAS SCHARFa2, BERNADETTE BARTLAMa1, MIRIAM BERNARDa1 and JULIUS SIMa1

a1 Centre for Social Gerontology, Keele University, UK.

a2 Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland.

ABSTRACT

This article contributes to emerging debates around age-friendly environments, providing empirical evidence concerning the relative age-friendliness of purpose-built retirement communities. Adopting a new definition – ‘underpinned by a commitment to respect and social inclusion, an age-friendly community is engaged in a strategic and ongoing process to facilitate active ageing by optimising the community's physical and social environments and its supporting infrastructure’ – the article analyses the age-friendliness of one retirement community in England. The Longitudinal Study of Ageing in a Retirement Community (LARC) encompassed two waves of a survey with residents, interviews and focus groups with stakeholders involved in staffing, managing and designing the community, and other qualitative data collected from residents. Reviewing the different data sources, the article argues that purpose-built retirement communities have the potential to be age-friendly settings but might better involve residents in a regular cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation and continual improvement if they are to facilitate active ageing. In addition, more clarity is needed on how such developments can better fit with the age-friendly agenda, particularly in terms of their capacity to support ageing in place, the accessibility of the wider neighbourhood, opportunities for intergenerational interactions, and the training of staff to work with older people.

(Accepted May 07 2013)

(Online publication June 17 2013)

KEY WORDS

  • age-friendly communities;
  • retirement communities;
  • housing;
  • older people;
  • environmental gerontology;
  • England;
  • mixed-methods

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: Jennifer Liddle, Centre for Social Gerontology, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK. E-mail: j.liddle@keele.ac.uk