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Downsizing in later life

Got aging parents thinking to downsize? Here are 9 key things to look out for when you’re helping your parents find their next home

When your parents get to a certain age, downsizing – maybe moving closer to family, living somewhere that’s easier and cheaper to manage and perhaps releasing some cash to spend on holidays, a new car and generally enjoy a more carefree lifestyle – all makes good sense. But how to help your parents find the right place? We asked Caroline Haswell from Churchill Retirement Living, which has properties throughout the UK, including Shaftesbury and Highcliffe-on-Sea in Dorset, for her advice.

Location, location, location

This is crucial. Think about proximity to shops, nice pubs and cafes, a library and other amenities. Are there good GP and dentist surgeries nearby? (If you don’t know the area, you can read inspection reports for GP, dentists and hospitals on the Care Quality Commission website.) Are these within walking distance or easily reachable on public transport? Living out in the sticks might seem like bucolic bliss but if getting out and about starts to get more difficult, there are definite advantages to being closer to, or in, a town or village.

Proximity to you or other relatives is also a consideration. If your parents are living nearby, it’s obviously going to be much easier if they need to be taken to appointments or you need to visit them to help sort things out – and (added bonus) they can see the grand kids more frequently.

Photo: Ekaterina Shakharova for Unsplash

Size matters

Your parents may be moving to a smaller place but bear in mind how much space they’ll need for their lifestyle or hobbies (that collection of vinyl or yoga habit) or if they want to put up an overnight guest. A second bedroom could be useful; some retirement development properties have guest suites (no need to make up the spare bed or share a bathroom in their own place) . Thinking of outdoor space, is it important to have a private garden or terrace or would a communal garden do just as well (no mowing or weeding, hurrah!)?


Fast forward to a time when your parents may not be so physically able. Is the property all on one level? Are there steps up or down between rooms? If it’s an apartment on an upper floor, is there a lift in the building? Wider corridors are essential if someone needs to use a wheelchair. Think about walk-in showers and grab rails by the bath. Are electric sockets and appliances at the right height? Is there parking close to the property?

Easy living

How much maintenance are they prepared to do? At this stage in their life, even the most inveterate DIY-er may answer ‘none’! In retirement developments, the properties are usually leasehold and management companies handle external repairs to the building and the grounds and buildings insurance. There’s usually an annual service charge to cover these costs.


Feeling safe

Does the area feel quiet, peaceful and safe? Think about security at the property – locks, alarm, even a security camera. Are there smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors? You can set up a careline support system (telephone linked personal alarms). Retirement properties may have a member of staff on site 24/7, which can provided added security both for when your parents are there, or away from home.

Social life

Loneliness can be an issue at any age but becomes increasingly common as we get older. Are there people of a similar age living nearby? Are there local venues, events, activities and classes in the area that suit your parents’ interests? Some retirement properties have programmes of activities, creating a ready-made community, which can be good if your parent is moving to a new area.


Money, money, money

Do your parents have another property to sell? If you’re interested in a retirement property, check whether you can re-sell or rent it out (and to whom) if circumstances change. Bear in mind the Government’s current stamp duty holiday, with none payable on properties up to £500,000 until 12 June 2021.

Go and see

Draw up a shortlist of places and go and have a look around at the property itself and the immediate area to see if it’s right for your parents. If you’re thinking of a property in a retirement development, you may be able to meet some of the other residents to get a feel for what it’s like to live there (remember, retirement developments are not care homes, but dedicated properties for independent older people and usually with added facilities and benefits).


When’s the right time?

Downsizing and leaving the family home and all its memories can take time for your parents to get their heads around, so it’s good to do your research and get things started sooner rather than later. It’s always better to make a move like this when your parents want to, rather than when they feel they have to.


See also: Retirement properties near you, Two-minute truths: financial care for parents and Best Places to Live, the top 200 places across 25 Muddy counties.

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4 comments on “Downsizing in later life”

  • Lee April 6, 2021

    Funnily enough a friend was talking about this the other day . Wants to move to a smaller place nearer daughter and says she’s looking at retirement developments but she’s only 63. Isn’t that too young ?

  • Cathy April 1, 2021

    Some really useful points here. I’m helping my Dad to think through what might work best for him, and especially about how much space he really needs

  • Jules April 1, 2021

    My mum is thinking of doing just this – so very timely. Thanks.


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