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Creating kinder communities – Supporting people making the move to a retirement community

Start date

01 August 2021

End date

01 August 2022


Moving house is commonly spoken about as one of the most stressful things that people can go through, but there is a lack of guidance about how we can best support older adults moving to retirement communities in the UK.

Retirement housing offers an environment where older people can easily access care, support and socialising opportunities. It is becoming so popular, the sector is predicted to expand by 10-40% over the next five years. Yet moving, and adjusting to life in a retirement community can be difficult for some people, so how can we best support people through this transition?

This ESRC IAA funded project will build on previous findings from the Pargiter Trust funded ‘transitions’ project, which explored the experience of moving to and living in a retirement community.

The transitions project highlighted that while some older people can make the adjustment to retirement community living smoothly, others struggle and become isolated from the community they live in.

When people adjust well, they have a sense of belonging to a community, gratitude for safety and security, and an enjoyment of the life afforded to them. Where residents don't adjust as well, they feel unwelcome in the community and suffer issues with other residents, staff or within their own personal life. 

Dr Kimberley Smith and Prof Andy King will continue this work with older adults and staff across a range of retirement communities to develop practical solutions and tools that will help to support them in this major life change.  They will also develop ways to make communities more supportive and inclusive environments through collaborations with the University of Bristol, ARCOPargiter Trust and Whiteley Homes Trust.

The kinder communities initiative will co-develop ideas that could make retirement communities more supportive and inclusive environments.


Our partners

This project is a partnership between the University of Surrey, The University of BristolWhiteley Homes TrustARCO and Pargiter Trust


The team will co-develop a series of tools with residents and staff living across five different retirement communities in the UK to support older adults making the move to a retirement community. 

These tools could be accessed independently by older adults and staff through the ARCO website, but they could also be integrated into existing support packages offered by retirement communities.

Initial ideas for tools that can be accessed independently by older adults and/or staff include;

  • A video to be co-created with residents where existing residents talk through their experience of moving and what helped them.
  • Diagrams (e.g., roadmaps) that show the process of moving and the things that residents could think about at each ‘stage’ of their journey – these would be downloaded independently by residents or shared by retirement communities. 
  • Tools can also be downloaded and used by retirement community operators and used as part of welcome packs.
  • Setting up a ‘buddying scheme’ between existing and new residents, is a potential solution we will identify (with help from ARCO), and work alongside communities that provide this scheme currently to produce ‘how-to’ guides for communities. 
  • Developing ways to create kinder and more supportive communities as part of the ‘creating kinder communities’ initiative, which will be taken forward in collaboration with Dr Paul Willis from the University of Bristol by applying for further grant funding.  

Success will come in the form of engagement with housing providers and buy-in for the project outcomes, alongside interest in utilising the co-developed tools to help support their residents.

To be able to tangibly measure this output the team will offer to visit villages and speak about the study and adaptation of the tools for use in their village post-award, and keep track of uptake of the toolkit and through the ARCO website.  

This project will strengthen links with a broader range of community organisations, and develop knowledge exchange activities. The team will work collaboratively with a growing sector (retirement communities in the UK) and establish the University of Surrey as an organisation at the forefront of work in this field.

This project aims to co-create resources that will support older adults living in these kinds of communities, developing societal impact in a meaningful way. 

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