Property: Portuguese retirement haven offers both sun and security

The Algarve is an old favourite for holidays. But why not live there? Mary Wilson reports
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The Independent Online
In the twilight of one's life, thoughts are bound to turn to where you want to live as you get older. For many people, the thought of going into a residential retirement home is not pleasant. Alternatively, your children might be able to accommodate you, or you could move to sheltered housing, where you live independently but have the security of 24-hour helplines and a resident warden.

Or, you could copy John and Virginia Butlin's example and move from Cornwall to a sheltered home in Portugal, where you get both the extra care if you need it, plus a wonderfully warm climate, as good for the spirits as it is for the health.

"We are in our seventies, John is only five years away from 80, and we decided we had to do something while we were still compus mentis," says Virginia.

"We will have our own home, which has just been built. with the knowledge that there is a beautiful nursing home close by with medical staff - should we need it later on".

Monte Da Palhagueira is owned by the Amesbury Group, whose founder, Mary Cornelius-Reid, runs three successful retirement homes in the south of England, all in elegant period houses with retirement homes alongside.

The Portuguese development is set in 22 acres of undulating land with olive trees and old stone walls, near the village of St Barbara De Nexe and 20 minutes from Faro airport.

Mary bought the site in 1991 and converted the old farmhouse and adjoining barns, transforming these into an attractive nursing home. In the adjacent 19th-century guesthouse, she has made an attractive dining room, where owners of the retirement homes can take their meals.

Outside the nursing home is a swimming pool which can be used by any resident. There are plans to build a church to be used by the local community and a coffee shop and laundry will be soon be up and running. A little hairdressing salon on site is already used by many of the villagers, as well as by the residents.

Thirty two-bedroom retirement homes (plus one detached house) will be built in typical Portuguese architectural style in small terraces of three, all with wonderful views over the hills.

The properties are sold on a loan basis, repayable six months after the house is vacated. This negates the need to pay CISA tax (like VAT) which would amount to around 10 per cent. Prices range from pounds 75,000 to pounds 125,000, depending on size, and there is a basic service charge, payable quarterly in advance, of pounds 430 for single occupation, pounds 585 for double. This covers twice weekly domestic help, weekly laundry collection and upkeep of communal areas. A 24-hour nurse call link is provided and owners have access to the doctor, who comes into the nursing home twice a week to hold a surgery.

There is no reciprocal agreement with the British national health system. But if you are under 74 you can opt into the Portuguese version. Many people take out private health insurance.It is also worth keeping up voluntary payments to the British NHS so that you can immediately take advantage of it should you return home. In Portugal, doctors cost about pounds 20 a call- out, but medicines are expensive. However the doctors who work for Monte da Palhagueira are some of the cheapest on the Algarve.

For more information, ring the Amesbury Group (01980 622957) or Monte Da Palhagueira (00 351 8992 692)