Retire in Style and Safety 


Jane Slade discovers retirement operators are creating COVID-secure developments in the UK and overseas 

Tim Riley of award-winning architects RCKa is designing a scheme of one-and- two-bedroom apartments for the Retirement Villages Group near Chester.  His challenge is to build a village that connects people but also complies with health and safety concerns that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. Instead of large blocks of long corridors the 147 homes at Boughton Heath will be spread across six villas with communal lobbies which can act as social bubbles in times of lockdown. 

 “Other priorities include access to outside space, having lots of natural light and being able to make rooms bigger or smaller,” Tim explains. RCKa is also designing inset balconies which are sheltered, large enough for exercising and can connect to several rooms. 

 Since the pandemic considerations that were never previously prioritised have now moved centre stage in order to create and maintain a premium and safe environment for older homeowners. Emphasis is now placed on movement corridors instead of actual corridors and improving access to staff. Another feature at Boughton Heath will be a central spine between public and private areas so the reception, restaurant kitchen and spa are in the middle of the action. 

 Audley Cooper’s Hill, aaward-winning retirement village of 78 two-bedroom apartments within the 67-acre Magna Carta park estate in historic Runnymede in Surrey is also focussed on its COVID secure credentialsThe village is split into five separate buildings, which allows for several entrances and social distancing. A second phase of 50 further apartments is underway. Operator Audley Villages which has 19 schemes across the UK has also seen a spike in buyer investment levels this year with interest from younger buyers 

“We have seen a surge in demand for our retirement villages during the pandemic,” reports Nick Sanderson, CEO of Audley Villages. “And the average age of buyers has fallen this year.” Audley’s 33 per cent increase in sales has been achieved in part by optimising technology.Face-to-face via video calling platforms like Zoom, are a great way of keeping in touch with prospects who may not feel comfortable leaving their homes,” explains Sanderson.At all our villages virtual appointments have been kickstarted for interested homebuyers, involving video tours, external fly arounds, and CGI visuals, all from their own home.”Overseas the Abama resort in Tenerife has been attracting retirees seeking an escape from the British winter and a second spike in COVID cases. With year-round sunshine and access to such natural wonders as the Teide volcano and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites the largest Canary island has plenty to enthral buyers.  

Sussex businessman Geoffrey Kent, 73, bought a three-bedroom penthouse apartment at Abama Resort two years ago. He loves it so much he spent lockdown in November there writing his memoirsEven though two of resort’s three swimming pools were closed and tables placed two metres apart in the Michelin-starred Merlin restaurant he never felt ‘unsafe’“They’ve had fewer COVID cases on Tenerife than the UK, so I felt very secure,” he said. Abama has just released its first show villa in its Las Villas del Tenis community of 23 detached homes, which offer panoramic views and access to 12 restaurants, three of which have Michelin stars, golf course, tennis courts, and beach. 

“Our homeowners live in a private neighbourhood with restricted access - they can relax or carry out their daily business, leisure activities and relaxation with no interference from the outside world,” said sales director Elodie Casola. “However, the beauty is that when our residents want to interact with others, there is a thriving community where everyone follows all the measures and guidelines in a safe environment."

Rivalling Tenerife’s sunshine record is Portugal’s Cork Tree Residencesa scheme for the over 55s, an hour from Lisbon and 30 minutes from the longest white sandy beach in Europe. Cork Tree will be home to just 40 detached, two-bedroom villas when it opens in 2023No adaptations are required to keep owners safe assures chief operating officer Paulo Jorge. “Our resort will be built in 10 clusters of four villas so not only can we seal off clients in their own villas we can seal off each cluster.  

 The main building will house a restaurant, bars, a multilingual library, health and fitness studios, a spa, cinema, hair and beauty salon, and a mini supermarket. Social distancing will be achieved through a rotation system of allowing five people per area. Over the border in Spain Norwegian retirement operator Ambera to develop future phases of The Almanzora Group’s Desert Springs Resortoffering a mix of villas and apartments in the Almeria region of Andalucia. 

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