The difference between care homes and retirement villages

The difference between a care home and a retirement village

As many adults enter the later stages of their life, they often need either extra care, help and support and want to be around those in a similar situation or position to them from an age and health perspective.

Our country’s ageing population is increasing demand for both care homes and retirement homes, so it’s well worth doing your research and planning ahead, so you can find the best solution for you or your loves one’s needs.

It’s worth familiarising yourself with the different options available and what might best suit you or your loved one. Whilst there are a multitude of options when this happens, this article explores the difference between a care home and a retirement village, and what may be more appropriate given an individual’s particular circumstance.

A care home is a residential home where (usually elderly) residents live who need help and care with everyday activities on a daily basis, whereas retirement villages are larger developments built specifically for older people who usually want to live with more independence.

Which is more appropriate and what are the pros and cons of each? The answer will differ depending on individual circumstances so here are some key deciding factors:


Care homes are by no means cheap – and especially a good quality care home which offers high quality care, facilities and food but they are often not as expensive as a retirement village, particularly a retirement village which has a variety of leisure facilities.

Downsizing and moving to a retirement home can make financial sense. You can own your home in a retirement village so there is financial security and an asset there, but you will usually have multiple other costs on top such as maintenance fees and ground rent which, if you live in a luxury village can add up. You may well also need to pay for care if this is required.


One of the key reasons for going into a care home is the round-the-clock care that’s available. Whilst there are various care options available within a retirement village, it’s not often as important a factor for residents of a retirement village and rarely would the care be as comprehensive as in a care home like ours.


This is another relatively easy factor to judge. A major benefit of retirement villages is the level of independence you are afforded. In a retirement village, you enjoy the privacy of your own home and the ability to do what you want when you want. This is different to a care home where, although you are given some independence, you have someone there to look after and support you when you need it.

Health & wellbeing

Quality of life in older age is also tied to good nutrition and the ability to remain active. Care homes have the advantage over retirement homes because all catering is provided. Providing a healthy balanced diet is a high priority for us here at Birchwood House. We offer three small meals throughout the day to suit the energy needs of our residents. Our care homes also run weekly activities to help our residents stay physically active and support their mental health. Retirement homes may have some facilities like a gym available, but care homes put wellbeing at the very heart of their service. 

Social environment

Both retirement villages and care homes can offer strong social environments (when social distancing rules are not in force) so which is better depends a lot on the individual circumstances within a particular care home or retirement village.

In our care home, many residents will socialise and interact with other residents on a daily basis, either at meal times or during the day perhaps during one of our many activities. These activities are organised by our team and there isn’t always the same option available in a retirement village, but as already stated there are options available and more independence to socialise when you want in a retirement village.


The quality of a care home or retirement village’s facilities can be highly subjective and it depends a great deal on the individual. We explored this a little in our article which discussed purpose built care homes or home from home care homes.

Both care homes and retirement villages have the opportunity for wonderful facilities, with hairdressing salons, a café or even a cinema on site but these will come at a higher cost than those that don’t have these facilities.

Many care homes will have beautiful grounds like ours at Birchwood House, but many will be located in the middle of a town and this can also be the case with a retirement village.

Personal space

Generally speaking, you will have less personal space and privacy if you opt for a care home over a retirement village.  Most care homes do offer private rooms though and will allow residents to personalise their bedrooms with their own belongings.


Care homes can provide a more temporary option with many offering respite care. This is ideal if someone is recovering from an operation or illness. Plus it is a good way to find out if the care home you are choosing is the right for you or a loved one. Moving into a retirement village is a big permanent and financial commitment.

So what is the best option?

The best option depends very much on the individual circumstances. A fit and able elderly person who has perhaps just lost their partner and is looking to live somewhere with like minded people in a social and vibrant environment will likely be better suited to a retirement village, whereas someone needing round the clock care and wanting to be looked after would prefer a care home.

Whatever your situation, if you have any questions about the care needs of either you or a family member then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team by calling 01892 863559.

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