Visiting Churchill Retirement Living with my Dad | What do we need to consider when looking to retire?
My amazing dad is 86 this year and as regular readers of my blog will know, my mum sadly has Alzheimer's and is currently living in a specialist care home locally. I will never accept my beautiful mum is in this situation, it is heartbreaking and at only 78 way too young. But I admire my dad, he is an absolute superstar, he visits his wife of 60 years regularly, usually 3-4 x per week, plus he is determined not to give up, he loves going on holiday and whilst he has had to adjust his arrangements due to mobility problems, he has still enjoyed several cruises and coach trips in the last few years. Fortunately he is quite sociable and that helps keep him from being too lonely. And of course, me and my two sisters live nearby, and with 8 grandchildren too, him and mum get lots of family time.
When Churchill Retirement Living got in touch with me to ask if I'd be prepared to share a review of their retirement lodges on my blog, and they invited me and my dad to stay overnight in their experience lodge, well I knew that dad would enjoy a night away, dinner out and an opportunity to chat to new people. He had actually visited Peel Lodge in Marlow the previous year, to see if selling his house and moving to one of the retirement apartments was an option (read on to find out the pros/cons). So yes dad was up for it, although the date was agreed and dad then went and booked a cruise to the Canary Islands (we sorted it)!
This is a sponsored blog post.
Churchill Retirement Living
Churchill Retirement Living is all about providing beautiful homes, in gorgeous locations, for retirees who want to continue to live an independent lifestyle but have a home with low maintenance, a communal area to socialise and the back-up of management on site Monday to Friday as well as personal safety alarms with 24/7 monitoring in case of an emergency.
Their lodges are absolutely stunning ... dad and I were invited to visit Beeches Lodge in Burnham, Buckinghamshire which isn't far from his home and is very conveniently located at the back of the High Street. Burnham is a medium sized village on the Berkshire border, I used to pass through when I drove to work in nearby Maidenhead and as a teen I would cycle to the riding stables in Burnham. Burnham Beeches of course are very famous and a stunning location to enjoy a walk. When we arrived at Beeches Lodge we were impressed by it's proximity to the shops, Budgens and the Post Office is opposite! And pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and local amenities are very close by. Burnham is also not far from some fantastic towns and attractions, for example Windsor is close, London is easy to access and the River Thames is right on the doorstep.
The 'experience lodge' and the 'guest suite'
Dad was staying in the 'experience lodge' which is one of the two show apartments set up to accommodate overnight guests. Churchill are keen to offer potential owners the opportunity to give life at one of their lodges a proper trial so they can make sure it is the right move for them, this is such a great touch, and a very reassuring way to support such a big decision.
I was invited to stay the night in the 'guest suite'. Every one of Churchill's retirement lodges has a guest suite for family and friends to use when they come to visit their loved ones. A very thoughtful addition to the lodges, it means the owners can buy the right apartment for them, one or two bedrooms and not have to worry about accommodating overnight guests. Guests can stay within the lodge but in their own separate space.
The guest suite is like a large hotel room, it has twin beds/large double with tea and coffee making facilities, a large wardrobe and dressing table as well as an en-suite shower room. And of course like every area of the retirement lodge, it is beautifully decorated and finished and I had a very comfortable nights stay.
The guest suites from Churchill Retirement Living are extremely comfortable and an excellent addition to their retirement lodges.
Independent living with a communal owners lounge
Owners at any of the Churchill Retirement Lodges are choosing to live completely independently, the lodges are just like any other high end development of apartments. Each apartment has it own private entrance off a shared hallway and main front door with a security entry system and reception area. But there is the added bonus of the shared 'Owners Lounge' a large, bright space, immaculately furnished by interior designers (think of a gorgeous modern hotel), with large opening doors onto a shared garden. There is also a small kitchen where owners can make tea and coffee or chill a bottle of wine if they are having a get-together!
Dad and I were very impressed with this space! This is NOT a care home! When we arrived in the afternoon and were shown around, there was a small group of 3 or 4 owners who get together most afternoons to chat and socialise, on this particular day they had just finished doing a jigsaw puzzle. There is also a spacious TV area, music, coffee table books, games and comfortable seating.
Beeches Lodge is still relatively new and not all apartments have been sold but as they begin to fill up, so the activities offered increase and depending on what the retirees would like, the lodge manager will arrange exercise classes, bridge afternoons, or special interest discussions.
Communal areas at Beeches Lodge in Burnham, are beautifully furnished and offer owners a chance to socialise at one of the many events organised by the lodge.
The apartments and gardens at Beeches Lodge
If I was buying one, I would want the show home! The idea of ditching all my mismatched furniture and junk acquired over the years really appeals. I loved the interior design of the apartments and the manager did say that a lot of buyers do take advantage of their interior design consultation, I bet they do! My dad agreed, he would totally just want to move in and have all the gorgeous new furniture and accessories.
The apartments are bright, spacious and practical. Carpets are included and I was impressed with the large walk-in cupboard in the halls and the high end finishes throughout. Some have patio doors and an outside area with room for a small patio table and chairs. But the communal garden surrounds the development and there are plenty of sunny places to sit and enjoy the gardens either alone or with other owners. The maintenance free garden is of course another bonus! But if you want to get involved with a gardening club then that is an option too. There is also plenty of parking.
Low maintenance, affordable lifestyle
There is a monthly service charge and Churchill take care of all the big maintenance jobs so the owners do not need to worry. This includes the services of the lodge manager, insurance, electricity in both communal areas and the heating in the apartment, window cleaning, water, and garden maintenance to name a few! This not only saves on worry and stress but also saves a considerable amount of money - to be spent on more fun activities and holidays!
The whole building felt warm, safe, secure and luxurious. There is a communal noticeboard that announces the social activities, a lift for easy access to the upper floors but each apartment owner has their own space and privacy when they want it.
The apartments are offered at various price points and there are lots of different options to make them affordable.
The Winter Warmer coffee and cake event
As part of our visit, dad and I were invited to join the owners at Beeches Lodge and others interested in buying an apartment, for one of their regular coffee mornings in the owners lounge. The staff working at the lodge were there, the area manager, the lodge manager, and sales staff, there were plenty of delicious cakes and tea or coffee on tap. There was a small raffle, raising money for Age UK and a very informal atmosphere. It gave me and my dad a chance to chat to some of the new owners.
Everyone was really friendly and happy to tell us about their new homes, they were all independent and varying in age from mid-60s to 90! Some were living alone, others were there as a couple. One lovely couple I chatted to had moved from nearby with encouragement from their son and daughter who wanted them to be somewhere a little more secure with help nearby if needed, and no need to worry about the maintenance of an older property. Both had some mobility issues and the wife said they are absolutely loving their new lifestyle, she said the only downside was that she has to use a tumble dryer and she misses hanging her washing out to dry - but understands that having everyone's laundry in the communal garden wouldn't look so great so she is happy to adjust.
I asked if they felt restricted by everyone living in the lodge being 'older' but I was firmly reminded age is only a number and they do not feel they are a community of older people at all! On the contrary they are young at heart and loving life!
I was also told how the guest suite accommodation can be used for visitors but also the owners can use the guest suite at any of Churchill's Retirement Lodges throughout the UK, so if you fancy a short holiday, visiting a new town or area but without the worry of booking an hotel, you can pre-book the guest suite (they are booked on a first come, first served basis). What a great idea!
I had difficulty dragging dad away at the end of the morning, he was quite happy having enjoyed the company of the owners and then moving up to a bar stool by the kitchen to chat to Churchill staff about how he could move into one of their lodges!
The Winter Warmer event was such a lovely morning, I met retirees who had already moved into Beeches Lodge and heard how much they are loving their new lifestyle.
Financial planning for retirement
Which brings me to one little issue - for us anyway. Please, please think about your retirement finances years in advance, in your 50s and 60s, this is not too early honestly. Without going into too much personal detail, there are things you should consider, and we have learnt the hard way.
If my parents had moved into a retirement lodge pre-dementia diagnosis, together then dad could now stay there for as long as he needed. However, as he is still living in the family home, if he sells it to buy a new home, he would then release equity of which 50% is my mums.
When mum moved to the care home, she was a self-funder, paying for her care from her savings. But inevitably that ran out, for a while we were fortunate to have NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding due to mum's complex needs but sadly that has now ended as her needs have 'improved'. This means she is back to being a self-funder, except her savings are about to hit the threshold where she will need help with her care costs and funding will need to be provided by Social Care (the local county council). You are only entitled to NHS CHC funding if your 'health' needs outweigh your 'social care' needs and it is notoriously hard to get healthcare funding!
If my dad sells the house and releases the equity then mums share would be put in a savings account and we would need to declare it on our social care funding financial assessment form. Any savings above the £23,250 threshold would be used to fund her care - 'self-funding' and at £6k-£8k per month for dementia care you get through any savings pretty quickly.
But all the time my dad is still living in the family home, able to do so and wants to do so then it cannot be sold to pay for my mums care. If my dad passed away first then the house would need to be sold and my mums share would go to pay for her care. If my mum passes away first and assuming my dad doesn't ever need to fund care for himself then the equity is slightly more protected. I know, it is complicated!
Of course, my parents needs, both for practical care and social care, for example ensuring my dad isn't feeling lonely or cut off, is the most important consideration in any planning we do. But it is also devastating to see families lose all their inheritance to pay for care.
In most cases the elderly parents do not want this to happen, they want their children to benefit from any inheritance as well as to make sure that the best care is available when needed.
It is a frustrating and difficult dilemma and can be a heartbreaking time for all involved but my advice is - plan now! There are lots of options to ensure the best outcome for everyone without necessarily having to lose the inheritance - the family home - that your parents worked so hard for.
Make sure you have researched it all, get both Powers of Attorney in place (for Finances and Health) - it is never too early to do this, did you know that once your own children are 18 it is a good idea for them to have POA in place as well? A next of kin does not have any legal rights to make decisions on behalf of someone who cannot do so for themselves.
Churchill Retirement Living offer financial advice as part of the moving process but before you get to that point, I would recommend meeting with a specialist solicitor or have a look at the Facebook group - Safeguarding Futures Health & Social Care Support, Steve and Melanie who run the group, and offer a financial advice service, really are brilliant and if they can't help they will signpost you to someone who can.
Offers from Churchill Retirement Living
Churchill Retirement Living have various amazing offers such as Move For Free, Home Exchange and Selling Made Easy. Terms and conditions apply. For more details please visit their Move with Ease section on their website.
And finally ...
Dad and I loved our visit to Churchill Retirement Living, Beeches Lodge, we found the lodge to be welcoming, cosy, comfortable and a seriously good option for retirees who want to live independently but with less maintenance and more security and some social support nearby.
If I'd been reading this review ten years ago, or if my mum didn't have dementia, I would absolutely be having a conversation with them to see if moving to one of the lodges would be good for them.
Spending time with my dad is precious, we had dinner at the local Italian restaurant, Artigiani Del Cibo, and had a delicious meal and time to catch up. I've always been close to my dad, I remember he would take me with him when he was working as a Sales Representative in the photographic trade in the Kent and Sussex area, I'd visit the camera shops with him and then he'd take me shopping! He had so much patience! My dad is one of life's gentleman, he is the loveliest, kindest man and everyone loves him and he is an absolute legend!
Thank you dad for helping me out with this blog post!
Disclaimer: this blog post is sponsored by Churchill Retirement Living, All words and opinions are my own.
All photos have been shared with the permission of the retirees at Beeches Lodge.
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Welcome to Fifty & Fab, a lifestyle blog to inspire you. I am a blogger with a passion for writing about health, menopause, fitness, beauty and style with a focus on the over 50's.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my 50s. I started this blog in 2016 with the purpose of helping other women at this stage of life. I’m delighted that my blog has grown to over 13k visitors per month. Visit my Work with Me page and request my Media Kit for details of product reviews, blogging services and social media content creation.
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