Never mind the bus pass, where do I park my bike?

Giving up work doesn't have to mean giving up on life. Developers are working overtime to match the changing expectations of last-time buyers

Even if you buy Philip Larkin's line - "they fuck you up, your mum and dad" - you are still likely to be lending a hand when it comes to helping them find retirement housing. Until recently the name "retirement home" carried with it the stench of boiled cabbage and the sound of endless Blitz-spirit sing-alongs, with the occasional bingo night thrown in for good measure.

Even if you buy Philip Larkin's line - "they fuck you up, your mum and dad" - you are still likely to be lending a hand when it comes to helping them find retirement housing. Until recently the name "retirement home" carried with it the stench of boiled cabbage and the sound of endless Blitz-spirit sing-alongs, with the occasional bingo night thrown in for good measure.

Today, there are greater choices for the bus-pass brigade. Much of the new development for this market certainly fits the luxury category with spacious reception rooms, bedrooms like swish hotel suites and landscaped grounds resembling Kew Gardens. This sophisticated approach to housing for the retired is trickling down to the mid- and even lower-priced markets. With the baby boomers about to demand even more when it comes to their turn to downsize, standards will rise ever higher.

Leather-clad biker boy Ian Robinson is not your typical slipper-clad retiree. Ian, aged 63, likes nothing more than racing round on his smart red Gelira Saturno motorbike. Ian and his wife Jay, 67, lived on the outskirts of a West Yorkshire town. Now that their three children have flown the nest, they have moved to a retirement flat at McCarthy & Stone's Sutton Court in the centre of Bingley, and have become involved with the Bingley Little Theatre - Jay as a director and Ian as stage manager.

"Sometimes we're rehearsing five nights a week, so it's wonderful to live just over the road," says Ian. "It means we can have a drink with everyone afterwards, without worrying about driving." The couple moved to Sutton Court when they realised there was "more to life than cleaning a four-bedroom house."

Alfred Parkes, 66, another McCarthy & Stone buyer, is into rock'n'roll rather than laying rockeries. He moved into a flat at Millers Court in the West Midlands with his impressive collection of 600 Elvis records and CDs - the fruit of 45 years' interest in the American superstar. "You have support here," he says, "but you do what you want and pursue your own hobbies."

The new byword in providing the right kind of property for the retired is discretion. Richard Davies, from Sheringham House Developments, says he borrows ideas from the Americans, and is really building five-star apartment complexes rather than retirement homes. His latest scheme, Sheringham House on the north Norfolk coast, is so well thought through, he has even worked out the proximity of hooks for hanging towels to the pool.

"Ladies of a certain age like genteel swimming," he finds, "but don't want others to see their varicose veins. This way they can disrobe and slide right into the pool."

Davies is selling 64 "private and elegant" apartments and bungalows in 20 acres behind electronic gates. The prices aren't cheap for East Anglia - from £340,000 for a two-bedroom place with a study and laundry room - but "here you don't have to get rid of the ambience of a four-bedroom house". There are no "silly tiny hallways", the doors are bespoke and the homes come with showers as well as baths in all the bathrooms.

Kevin Holland from English Courtyard says: "We provide the same square footage as a four-bed detached house for those who no longer need four bedrooms." He has already taken three reservations at English Courtyard's next venture in Bearsted Green, Kent, even though the shovels haven't broken the ground yet.

English Courtyard researchers have found that their typical buyer, who pays from £400,000 to just over half a million for a home, would have at least five holidays abroad each year, as well as several in the UK. More than half also go online regularly. Because so many are computer savvy, Holland says they are considering providing computer suites in every property.

Beechcroft is another retirement developer that aims is to provide generous living accommodation: well-proportioned rooms and high ceilings, and wide staircases, hallways and doors. The emphasis is on lock-up-and-leave properties with on-site management to keep a "friendly eye" on things, and no worries about gardening.

Two two-bedroom cottages are available at one of their latest schemes, University Farm in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds, one priced at £325,000 and the other at £345,000. Extras include a separate kitchen, a sunroom opening on to a patio, plus two "bonus" rooms and a bathroom on the second floor - useful as a guest suite, a study or for additional storage. There is also a swimming pavilion on site.

But do you need to stick to retirement developments? Bob and Ann Plummer think not. They are downsizing from their large three-bed home in Limehouse to a new third-floor Barratt Homes' apartment at Tradewinds in Silvertown, east London. Here prices start at £375,995 for two-bed apartments and £414,995 for three-beds.

Bob, 61, says: "Tradewinds is close to City Airport and the M11 - there are excellent transport links all round. And as we want to get away and take as many holidays as possible once we retire, this is important." The Plummers opted for a three-bed flat with space for their two grown-up children to stay, but there is still money left over to buy a property in France. The riverside development also includes a residents-only complex featuring a business centre and gym with refreshment area, with landscaped areas for the exclusive use of those who live there.

Frank Harris & Co believes the Barbican is a better bet for retirees than Bournemouth, with the City of London scoring higher when it comes to healthcare. He is selling one- and two-bed apartments at Tudor Rose Court, a scheme specifically for the over-sixties, with a 24-hour warden, lifts, entry phones and communal gardens. It is well-priced, from £162,000 to £218,000, is only 100m from Barbican station, and culture vultures are well-placed with the Barbican Centre on the doorstep.

McCarthy & Stone: 0800 919132

Sheringham House: 01603 229229

English Courtyard: 0800 220858

Beechcroft Developments: 01491 825522

Tradewinds: 020-7476 2819

Tudor Rose Court: 020-7600 7000

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