Published in the Daily Express 17th March 2023

ALL MOD CONS: The Canopy development in Chigwell, London, is smart and connected.

The days of retiring to a cottage in the countryside or settling down by the sea in our sixties could be over. More of us are downsizing to the suburbs where there are good public transport links, shops within walking distance and accessible health care including GPs, dentists and hospitals.

As for buying a draughty old cottage, well you can forget that even if this week’s Budget has extended the Energy Price Guarantee until the end of June.

But while pensioners on a fixed income need to make sensible choices when choosing a new home, such as living in a heat-efficient property, many also want to have fun – so a home within a bus or train ride from arts and culture is high on their list.

“What the new retiring generation are attracted by is the accessibility of the attractions that cities and large towns offer,” says Richard Williams, director of Cognatum Projects.

Cognatum is a retirement housing company specialising in small leasehold developments with annual service charges to pay for external maintenance of homes and the communal grounds. It manages more than 60 over-55s developments and works with builders and developers to create new ones such as The Canopy in leafy Chigwell, near Epping Forest, in the London borough of Redbridge.

“The perfect combination seems to be a peaceful location with local shops, essential amenities and access to green spaces, but within an easy journey of an urban centre that offers plenty of culture, entertainment and provides an extensive public transport hub,” says Williams.

The Canopy is near Grange Hill Tube station on the Central Line into London, so it’s easy to access the capital’s theatres, museums and galleries, as well as Chigwell’s shops, cafes and restaurants.

The 25 luxury two-bedroom apartments are for sale from £599,950 ( and will have access to a communal roof terrace with seats and heaters, communal games room on each floor and on-site electric car charging. It also has high-speed broadband, lifts to all floors and a dedicated parking space for every home, with additional visitor spaces.

The pet-friendly development has access to private woodland and there’s a 24-hour personal emergency alarm service, but one of its most important features is a highly efficient communal boiler that is expected to keep heating costs “significantly lower than for the average home”.

“While there remains a significant proportion of retirees who choose to relocate to be near family, there’s a growing trend for a downsizing shift to the suburbs,” says Williams, who thinks this may have “fast-tracked” after long periods of lockdown which affected the older generation in particular.

“With retirement keeping up many hours for leisure, retirees are drawn to places that are packed full of culture such as theatre and exhibitions, interesting restaurants and bars and good shopping and places that allow them to be carefree.”

And he makes the point that transport is a key requirement, especially for those who do not drive any more.

“Rural areas that offer a sporadic bus service mean that retirees are dependent on driving or taxis,” he says, “while a good suburb with regular buses and trains that allow for unrestricted travel into a busy city or town centre is a huge benefit.”

For more information:
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Cognatum, a not-for-profit company, has 60 retirement estates in 21 counties across central and southern England, a total of 928 retirement homes. All are in prime locations within vibrant market towns or villages, within walking distance of shops and restaurants. Each estate benefits from thoughtful architecture, landscaped grounds, and a dedicated estate manager.