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Does living in a retirement village extend life expectancy? The case of Whiteley Village

Authors: Les Mayhew, Ben Rickayzen and David Smith

The benefits or otherwise of communal living in later life are of considerable interest in the context of a growing and increasingly elderly population because of the continuously rising cost pressures on health and social care and the need to provide more suitable accommodation. Such establishments have the capacity to provide in one location all the needs of residents whilst providing a stimulating and high quality living environment which insulates residents from the day-to-day problems of growing old. Whiteley Village, currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, is one of the main forerunners of this kind of retirement living anywhere in the world. The aim of this study is to investigate the possible benefits of retirement village life with respect to life expectancy i.e. whether Villagers live longer on average than the general population. Our results show that there is strong statistical evidence that female residents, in particular, receive a substantial boost to their longevity when compared to the wider population – at one point in time reaching close to five years. Whiteley’s longevity advantage is even greater once we take account of the fact that the resident population is drawn from the poorest pensioners, who would be expected to experience higher mortality rates. Although we were unable to find sufficient statistical evidence that the male residents of Whiteley outlive their counterparts in the wider population, there was certainly evidence that the majority lived at least as long on average (i.e. the effects of living at Whiteley appears to combat the inequalities caused by social deprivation).