The reassurance of care on-site and being close to family were the key factors for John Kidwell and his wife Peggy when they moved to Charters Village three years ago.
John and Peggy previously lived in a large four-bedroom house in Woking, Surrey which had been their family home for 44 years.
John is a retired engineer spending 15 years as an aircraft engineer with Shorts & Vickers Armstrong and finally ending up in Basingstoke in electroplating engineering after the decline of the aircraft industry in the UK. Peggy worked as a secretary before they decided to start a family.
When Peggy became ill with dementia 10 years ago, John willingly took on the role of her carer and only when Peggy’s care needed more of his time, did they start to look for somewhere else to live. The couple needed somewhere smaller that would allow John to care for Peggy without having to worry about stairs, home maintenance or managing the garden. They were also looking for somewhere with care on-site, which would offer support to John when he would eventually need it for Peggy.
The couple have three children Louise, Gavin, and Emma and it was their daughter Louise who lives in East Grinstead, who helped to research suitable properties in the area. The idea was to move to be closer to Louise who could visit regularly with their grandchildren and help John.
Louise selected three villages in the area, one in Horsham, one in Woking and then Charters in East Grinstead. She came for a personal tour initially and then brought her parents along to see what village living was all about.
“The village in Woking was quickly discounted because it was too far away for me to be able to visit regularly. The Horsham village was very large and we just felt that it lacked atmosphere, it just didn’t feel right. Then we came to Charters; it’s just so beautiful and not in the centre of town, so it’s peaceful, but still close enough to be able to pop into the town centre for whatever you need.
“Charters was perfect for Mum and Dad’s requirements. Everything they needed is here, from social events, having a small shop and access to carers, which is very reassuring. They both missed the garden but being able to look out of their window and take in the beautiful grounds is wonderful. It’s such a pretty location, we couldn’t ask for more. The gardeners here do a wonderful job”
John and Peggy bought a two-bedroom apartment in Phase 2 of the development off plan. On their first visit to the village, the apartment block was part built and both John and Louise, along with her husband Andrew, came to visit the site a few times to check on the build progress. John put their house on the market in the November and were moved in by the following May.
Louise said: “My parents settled in really quickly and it was a great relief for Dad not to have to contend with stairs and his garden, so he could give all his time to caring for mum.”
John said: “It’s a really big apartment with plenty of room, the ceilings are nice and high, and there are lots of windows so it’s very bright and airy. They are very well designed apartments and economical to heat.
“That said, it was still quite a big job to decide what furniture to bring with us. We’d gathered quite a lot of stuff over the years, so it did take many weekends to get organised. In fact, we brought far too much with us but after two months, if there was anything that we hadn’t used we had another clear out.”
John reflected on some of the things that made the move to an apartment such a positive experience:
“One of the best things was that all the white goods were provided. Having a drier in our washing machine is excellent and makes short work of any laundry. I also have a cleaner once a week, bedding and towels go to the onsite laundry and we have a regular window cleaner which is all very convenient,” said John.
Peggy was very happy at the village and when John was unable to care for her in their home, she was able to move across into the on-site care home where he could visit every day, along with their Boston Terrier dog called Poppy.
Louise said: “It was a difficult decision to move Mum across to the care home but lovely for Dad to be able to pop across all the time to see her. The support we received from the staff who work at the retirement village and in the care home made it very easy for all of us at such a difficult time. The village set up allowed them to stay together for as long as possible before Mum sadly passed away.”
John is pleased that they made the decision to move to the village when they did although realised that maybe they should have moved earlier than they did.
He explains: “The staff are very friendly here and everyone gets on very well. There are no conflicts of interest, even though everyone is very different. When Peggy passed away the village staff organised the wake, which was beautifully done. Also, they put on a lovely afternoon tea for me when it was my 90th birthday for family and close friends and an indoor barbecue for all my village friends, which was fun.”
John enjoys the unique lifestyle on offer at Charters Village, taking part in activities and events, including the weekly keep fit club and cinema evenings. He is also on the village bar rota and takes advantage of the delicious meals on offer in the village restaurant, which is open six days a week for lunch; in the evenings there are regular supper nights including fish and chips and curry nights. There are theatre trips and guest speakers are invited in.
John’s daughter, Louise, is pleased that her father lives close by:
“I try and visit Dad most days. I have a Border Terrier dog called Millie and we take the dogs out for a walk together. We wouldn’t be able to do that if Dad lived further away. Now that he doesn’t drive anymore, I try to take him to as many of his appointments as I can but there is a local taxi service which is very reliable. My children come and visit too, taking him shopping, and if I am away, they’ll pop over to have dinner. He’s made a lot of friends at the village too, which is lovely,” said Louise.
John shared his tips for finding your perfect retirement location and property.
John said: “Make sure you know what facilities you are looking for and check that the activities on offer meet your needs. For me, access to care and having a care home on site was vital. Regular access to a chiropodist and a hairdresser were important too. I wanted to be out of town to get away from the hustle and bustle, but close enough to facilities and shops when I need them. I knew I would eventually have to give up driving so having a minibus here, which takes you into town every week and further afield a couple of times a month, was a necessity.”
He continued: “Being close to my family is wonderful because I get to see my daughter and grandchildren all the time. It’s nice to be able to spend time together and share our love of dog walking!”