WHEN you talk to older people about their concerns for the future, having to go into a care home usually features highly.

Fear of going into a care home says a lot about how such places are perceived. But surely it also highlights a failure on the part of planners and wider society to recognise changing demographics and expectations, to offer retired citizens an attractive and imaginative range of housing options.

If a new development near Newton Mearns gets the go-ahead, however, this could be set to change. Developers have drawn up plans for Scotland’s first dedicated residential retirement “town” on a 17-acre former industrial site, and it couldn’t be further from your typical old folks’ home.

Geared towards “active later living”, Netherplace features a mix of one and two-bedroom flats and cottages - laid out on leafy streets - as well as an on-site care home. Twenty-four hour support will be available to all residents.

But it’s the facilities that really stand out. As well as a club house, gym, spa and community centre, there will be a clinic, restaurant, function suite and shops, all of which will be available to both residents and the wider community. There is also a reservoir, stocked for fishing, as well as plethora of gardens and picnic areas to encourage residents to stay in touch with nature and enjoy the outdoor life. Another notable features is the on-site nursery, signalling a desire for the development to be a part of family life in the area, and highlighting the importance of such communities drawing a mix of people.

If given the green light by East Renfrewshire Council, the £55m plan could potentially be the first of many such developments. And this would surely be a very good thing.

Retirement villages are already hugely popular in the US and Scandinavia, with residents reporting significant physical and mental health benefits, not least half the levels of loneliness of older people living independently elsewhere.

Expectations of retirement are very different today than they were in our grandparents’ age and many of us can expect to live considerably longer lives, hopefully staying healthier for longer. With this in mind, we need to ensure older people - many of whom are asset rich - have property options that suit their lifestyles and encourage them to stay active.

Such options would also provide a way for older people to downsize and enjoy their retirement in an amenity-rich environment while freeing up much-needed property stock for the younger generation.

Care homes will always be needed. But they should perhaps be viewed as a specialist option for those with high-dependency needs rather than the norm. We await the Nether place planning decision with interest.