Retiring in Essex: The best care homes?

PUBLISHED: 11:28 06 June 2016

Retirement should be a wonderful time

Retirement should be a wonderful time


Experts say it is never too early to start planning for retirement, so whatever your stage of life, it’s something you should be thinking about. Holly Eells goes in search of the answers for those looking to enjoy plenty of highlights in their twilight years


Essex is described as one of the most beautiful rural places in the UK. With ancient woodlands and forests, one of the longest coastlines (thanks to its many estuaries) and dreamy fresh sea air, what more could you want from a county?

So perhaps that’s why so many retired folk are taking advantage of the attractive opportunities Essex has to offer and are enjoying their time settling down in this desirable area.

Janet Clarke, a 95-year-old resident at Highfield Private Care Home in Saffron Walden, is someone who believes Essex is the place to retire to and a great place to take pleasure in favourite pastimes. Born in Chesterford, Janet moved away from the village around 40 years ago, but returned, and then several years ago moved to Highfields. She says: ‘I love this area; I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life here. My husband moved to Highfields before me five years ago, I was practically visiting him nearly every day. However, after my husband died, the staff encouraged me to keep coming back to have a chat and talk to other Highfields residents. I appreciate the company here because there are some fascinating individual members of staff with an amazing mix of backgrounds. A lot of the staff have worked here for years, so that is saying something about the place!’

Describing herself as one of the World War I Baby Boomers, she explains that even know she is at an age where she could do with help, she still wants to keep her independence too. She says: ‘I am fairly self-sufficient, but I do value the background care given here including the catering, laundry and all the other things, which I am glad to give up doing at home! It is unfortunate some people have negative attitudes towards care homes, which shouldn’t be the case.

‘When I went into hospital in February this year, it was so lovely when I returned back to Highfields because I could call for help whenever I needed. But if I wasn’t here, I would be alone and it would be a different kind of situation. Every human being has to learn to enjoy life, make the best of things and always be positive.’

It is evident that making the right choice is essential when selecting a care home and there are many factors to consider. Nevertheless, what’s important is for you to feel at home in comfortable surroundings and to be confident in the professional structured care given.

The Beeches, a care home in Brentwood, is part of Signature Care Homes, which offers the full spectrum of 24-hour residential and nursing care for individuals and couples. Whether it is short-term respite or convalescence, a comfortable home or end-of-life care, they can cater to any needs. Jaycee Cowmeadow, a recently joined resident at the Beeches couldn’t agree more.

Jaycee says: ‘I have only been living at The Beeches for around a month, so I am the new bird around here and I am having a great time. Sadly around three and half years ago I had a stroke and since then my health has not been the same, so I wasn’t coping very well. I was recommended The Beeches by a nearby neighbour who came here on respite after a hip operation. So after hearing from her how wonderful her experience was at the care home, I rang them up for a brochure and they invited me to one of their vintage tea parties. When I first stepped through the door I was amazed by the beautiful building, it is like a luxury hotel. Since then my feet have not touched the ground. I absolutely love it here.’

The Beeches boasts elegant, purpose-built properties offering 99 spacious en suite private apartments and a variety of studios of one or two bedrooms. Set within the most beautiful landscaped gardens, it provides a lovely environment for a relaxing stroll or an al fresco drink to share with residents, friends or family. Jaycee believes it offers a variety of outstanding facilities to suit the needs of everyone. She explains: ‘The place is so attractive and there is certainly no comparison here. You get to decorate your own place making personal touches, such as adding furnishings, carpets, blinds and accessories. It is great because it will be my home now for the rest of my life and it is just how I like it.’

Stylish dining at The BeechesStylish dining at The Beeches

Nevertheless, whether you are looking for a care home for yourself, partner or another family member, the issue of cost is bound to be both complex and high on the agenda.

Nick Hodgetts, an independent financial advisor at Kerseys Wealth Management in Ipswich, can help you with your financial planning, which can range from sourcing the right mortgage or making pension contributions to inheritance tax planning. Nick says: ‘We can help in all areas including paying for the cost of long-term care whether at home or elsewhere, these are all areas KWM can assist with. I often deal with different generations of the same family and, with the advent of Workplace Pensions, I am also now working with more business owners and their employees.’

He adds: ‘The first stage in our process would be to understand what existing provision is already in place and compare that to the client’s needs and aspirations – sometimes people need some guidance in assessing what they will want at retirement. If there is a likely shortfall, we then explain the different ways that could be addressed – pensions and ISAs being the most obvious, but there are other options.’

Nick also mentions it is never too early to prepare for retirement and there are lots of options to consider. He explains: ‘The government certainly thinks so because even babies qualify for tax relief on pension contributions up to £3,600pa and its new Lifetime ISA that can be used for house purchase or retirement starts at age 18. Workplace Pensions include workers from the age of 16 so there is plenty of opportunity for young people to save and I believe it is a culture that parents and grandparents should try to instil in their younger family members. There is a cost to delay, if you put off saving until later life you will have to save so much harder to achieve the same results in a shorter time span. Saving over the long-term in stocks and shares, ISAs and pensions is flexible and convenient, but does require some self discipline and commitment.’

Chris Andrews, head of the private client department at John Fowlers LLP which has a variety of offices across Essex including Mersea, Clacton and Colchester. Chris also believes it is never too soon to plan for your retirement. He explains: ‘From a legal point of view it is essential that every adult approaching retirement or contemplating it (if not already) starts to consider the structure of their wills and affairs including questions about what would happen if I were not here, who would I want to inherit my estate and what would happen if I lost mental capacity? These are practical steps that should always be considered to start the process of dealing with your affairs before something happens. Be proactive not reactive and matters are much easier to put into effect and far more cost effective than leaving matters until something goes wrong.’

The friendly local firm of solicitors provides a vast range of personal services, including estate planning advice, preparation of wills and trusts and advice in matters relating to care homes and the ownership of properties, backed up with excellent advice tailored to each client’s individual needs and requirements.

Chris adds: ‘We would always advise clients to think into the future and put their legal affairs in order and also, while contemplating retirement, would advise them to seek advice from a financial advisor to deal with the strictly monetary matters that as solicitors we cannot provide guidance on. However, we do work closely with financial advisers and the joint approach to future planning is always beneficial for a client.’

Independent financial advisor, David Carr from Edmund Carr LLP Chartered Accountants in Chelmsford, explains there are several topics to take into account when it comes to retirement. David says: ‘There are a variety of things including have you reviewed your pension position, as the ability to make contributions may cease after retirement when you no longer have earned income? Have you obtained a state pension forecast? Are written expressions of wishes in place with regard to pension plans or perhaps you have multiple pension funds, have you considered consolidating these? Conversely, if you are nearing retirement and are around or over the lifetime allowance for pension savings, have alternative tax effective investments been considered?’

David’s work colleague, Francis Whitbread from the taxation department at Edmund Carr LLP, shares some valid key tips for those thinking about retirement and what they should be considering. Francis says: ‘If you are disposing of your business when you retire, have you taken advice on the business structure to ensure capital gains tax entrepreneurs relief is maximised on the disposal? If you liquidate your business interests, this is likely to fundamentally change your inheritance tax position. Have the implications of this been considered, together with possible planning opportunities.’

The Hawthorns, BraintreeThe Hawthorns, Braintree

Francis continues: ‘Another key point to remember is to get professional advice on the best date to retire, particularly if your business does not have a March 31 or April 5 year end. Also, have you reviewed the allocation of income between you and your spouse in retirement, to make sure the maximum use is made of personal allowances, basic rate bands and annual capital gains tax exemptions?’

It is this forward planning that allows you to make the most of your later years and keeping active after retirement is vital for husband and wife, Audrey and Brian Hennessey. They moved to The Hawthorns in Braintree around five years ago when they decided they wanted to live in a retirement community, but still be close to their family. Audrey says: ‘We wanted to live somewhere to keep active, busy and make new friends. We looked around various retirement homes and chose The Hawthorns because it was in the right location for us. They made it so easy to organise our move and they had lovely accommodation for couples, which worked perfectly for us. The people we dealt with were very helpful and we knew as soon as we looked around it was somewhere we would be happy living.’

The Hennessey’s believe Braintree is definitely the place to be because it has everything to satisfy their needs. Audrey adds: ‘For us, the most important thing has been to get involved in the activities and events, which has been a great way to meet new friends, but also keep up with old friends too. With free transportation on offer at Braintree, it means we don’t have to worry about driving ourselves but we are still able to get out and about to do the things we most enjoy. There are many local day trips on offer and residents can also use the minibus to get to their local appointments.

‘We have family who live locally, so it is also great to be able to use the private dining room, which is available to all residents to invite friends and family for lunch, without having to do any of the cooking ourselves. The Hawthorns also have properties in other locations, for example Eastbourne, where we have been able to stay there for no extra cost while we have been visiting friends.’

It is apparent keeping active after retirement is excellent for the mind and body, and another ambassador for benefiting from retirement is 87-year-old Brenda Boley who has been a resident at Sonnett Care Homes (The New Deanery) in Chelmsford for more than three years. She came here after her husband died and she couldn’t cope on her own. Brenda explains: ‘I am disabled and I couldn’t manage by myself, even when people were coming to my home to help. So I voluntarily decided to come here and I am really glad I did because I get looked after so well. The staff are excellent and they will do anything for you. I don’t think you will find anything better than here because there is so much freedom and it is very relaxing, but if you need care it is right on your door step.

‘The most important thing for me is I have kept my independence and I can do what I like. There are plenty of activities organised on a daily basis for myself and others to get involved in. This week I am going out shopping into Chelmsford and there is helpif needed.

‘I really don’t think there are many care homes like The New Deanery. With such beautiful grounds, it doesn’t feel like a care home, it feels like my beautiful home. You really must book yourself a bed!’

Get in touch

Brian and Audrey HennesseyBrian and Audrey Hennessey

Highfield Care Home

Mandeville Road, Saffron Walden CB11 4AQ. 01799 524 936.

Signature Care Homes

The Beeches, Hubert Road off London Road, Brentwood CM14 4NA. 01277 561 011.

Kerseys Solicitors

1st Floor, 844 The Crescent, Colchester Business Park, Colchester CO4 9YQ. 01206 584 584.

John Fowlers LLP

01206 576151. Appointments available in Colchester, West Mersea, Brightlingsea and Clacton

Edmund Carr LLP

146 New London Road, Chelmsford CM2 0AW. 01245 261818.

The Hawthorns

The Hawthorns Braintree, Meadow Park, Tortoiseshell Way, Braintree CM7 1TD.

Sonnet Care Homes

The New Deanery, Deanery Hill, Bocking CM7 5SR. 01376 558 555. /

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