These ritzy homes have lobster on the menu, vintage Bentleys if you fancy a spin and oxygen chambers to keep you looking young — all for up to $200,000 a year
Written by Jane Slade

Friday June 07 2024, 12.01am, The Times

The retired may wince at the term “luxury property porn” being applied to high-end retirement schemes, but the developments featured in Channel 5’s The World’s Most Luxurious Retirement Homes have serious wow factor — ranging from a glitzy palace to a modern spa hotel and a stately home.The ones in the United States drip with ornate chandeliers, shiny marble floors, flashy spas and feature wealthy residents dining on lobster and champagne.“It’s like the Bellagio at Vegas,” declares Rita Price, 97, a retired dancer who lives at The Ridge Pinehurst, an uber-modern retirement community in Denver, Colorado.The Ridge cost $200 million to build and is designed for those who want an active lifestyle. “You don’t need cocaine and heroin to feel good,” adds Price, an award-winning tennis player and pickleball enthusiast. But life in a luxurious retirement scheme like this does not come cheap.

Mike and Donna, who have been married for 60 years, pay $100,000 a year to rent their apartment at The Ridge. They run a financial advisory business and moved after they both had strokes. They swim every day in the saltwater pool with a resistance river, and Mike, 85, still goes skiing at the nearby Winter Park resort.

In Miami, Helen Shaham, 77, gives viewers a tour of The Palace at Coral Gables, one of ten senior living communities she and her husband, Jacob, have built for rich retired people in Florida.

Inspired by the design of the George V hotel in Paris, The Palace has 243 homes made up of one and two-bedroom apartments and 21 penthouses. It costs between $85,000 and $200,000 a year to live there.

It’s stuffed with self-made business tycoons and the widows of self-made business tycoons (70 per cent of occupants are women), and all meals, plus champagne, wine and beer are included. Also laid on is a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, which, when combined with Botox, fillers and facelifts, makes everyone look spookily young.

Jackie Adelson, a retired handbag business owner, has lived at The Palace for nine years and loves a good party — the development hosts 70 a year, including a “good riddance hurricane” party — thrown when a hurricane misses the development.

With 19 fitness classes to choose from every week, it’s perhaps not surprising that a few overdo their quest to keep fit and well, applying the same ruthless ambition to their leisure as to their business lives.

We see semi-retired Miami lawyer and exercise addict Larry Schants, 85, paying the price of his over-enthusiasm in the gym and getting physio treatment, and 97-year-old Al receiving table tennis-coaching from a former Olympian.

In the UK, Danny House is as far from flashy Florida as you can get. The West Sussex stately home is more Downton Abbey than glitzy palace. It opened as a retirement village in 1956 and was originally designed for those returning home after serving overseas.

“They wanted to retire to the country-club lifestyle they were used to,” explains Danny’s owner, Richard Burrows, 60, a chartered surveyor. “Namely, gin and tonics and bridge in the afternoons. They were used to communal living and Danny really appealed to them.”

Danny is a grade I listed Elizabethan mansion set in a 100-acre estate within the South Downs National Park. It was the grace-and-favour home of the former prime minister David Lloyd George, who rejected Chequers in favour of Danny, and lived there with his wife Margaret and mistress Frances Stevenson for three months, often at the same time.

Danny’s Great Hall was where Lloyd George convened a meeting of his war cabinet on October 13, 1918, to agree terms of the Armistice with Germany. A wooden plaque commemorates the event and lists a young Winston Churchill among the attendees.

The hall, adorned with old masters and antique furniture, has retained its grandeur. A Steinway grand piano stands amid sofas, window seats and oak chairs on which residents can enjoy their morning coffee.

Burrows bought the house and grounds for £3 million 20 years ago, and lives on site with the residents, who pay between £3,200 and £5,000 a month to rent an apartment or mews house, with utilities and meals included.

“We chose to feature Danny House in the programme because it is a genuine, authentic, unique community,” explains Ed Kellie, the executive producer of the TV production company ScreenDog. “It’s a bit dusty around the edges, but the residents are not just passive clients. They are members of the Danny family.”

Indeed, there is little need for the development to bring in outside experts to host workshops and classes. Danny resident Derek Henry, 81, a retired graphic artist, gives painting lessons, and Joan Wilson, 90, arranges all the flowers.

Wilson pays £3,200 a month for her one-bedroom apartment with a large sitting room, study and views of the grounds. “I love it here,” she says. “Richard [Burrows] even gave me a piece of land to grow my own blooms.”

Wilson also helps to bottle-feed the lambs. Burrows has a flock of 200 ewes and some pigs he keeps in the woods, so Danny’s residents are guaranteed fresh local lamb and sausages.

Danny thrives on its quirkiness. Wheelchairs and walkers are banned in the communal areas and residents are encouraged to use the stairs rather than take the lift.

“Of course there are exceptions,” Burrows explains. “But Danny is not really suitable for wheelchairs. And residents don’t want to be reminded of being old.”

Instead there are dance classes, book clubs and fitness classes as well as weekly music recitals, exhibitions and talks.

There are picnics in the grounds in the summer, cricket matches on the Danny cricket pitch — one of the earliest “identifiable” pitches recorded — charity fêtes, black-tie dinners and events commemorating royal and military anniversaries.

“No one wants to feel they are in an old people’s home or a care home,” says Burrows, who employs ten full-time staff for 25 residents.

One resident described Danny as “like being at an Edwardian country house party without having to bump into your relations”. I would say it is more like Swallows and Amazons for grown-ups.

At The Palace in Miami, Jackie Adelson goes shopping in a Rolls-Royce and rides in her daughter’s power boat. In West Sussex, Burrows takes his residents for a spin around the grounds in his vintage Bentley and for brisk walks up Wolstonbury Hill.

In the programme, Susan Rouse, 87, a retired interior designer, is trying to persuade her 83-year-old boyfriend, John, to rent an apartment at Danny so they can see more of each other. Susan’s two-bedroom mews cottage is just too small for the two of them, she says.

Rouse moved into Danny House five years ago after living in the south of France for 32 years with her ex-army husband, David, who died in 2013. She met John online, listing her likes as gardening, walking and cuddles. They hit it off and have been dating for three years.

Rouse likes to tend the plants along Burma Road — the name given to the stretch of gravel path with shrubbery and flowers on either side.

“There are two things I love most about Danny,” Rouse says. “There is no pollution of any kind. No crowds, no traffic, no noise. There are also no rules. I can do what I want when I want and there are no signs saying I can’t go anywhere.”

She also enjoys lunchtime concerts in the Great Hall, where Burrows’s four-year-old son Wilfie helps to hand out drinks. “They say it takes a village to bring up a child,” Burrows says of the youngest member of the Danny family.

Wilfie is even having his fifth birthday party at Danny. All the residents are invited, of course. There will be egg-and-spoon races and a proper tea.

“We all support each other in different ways,” Burrows says. “I want people to feel they are contributing to the community and feel part of the Danny family.”

After eight days filming there, Kellie concluded: “It costs a lot less to live at Danny than other retirement communities. But no matter how much money you have, when it comes to later life people all want the same things: companionship, love and good health.”
The World’s Most Luxurious Retirement Homes airs on Channel 5 on Sunday, June 9, at 8pm

Jane Slade is the co-founder of the retirement property website retiremove.co.uk