WHO EXACTLY LIVES IN A RETIREMENT VILLAGE

       Mary Wood, Executive Director – Retirement Living, Property Council of Australia


Retirement villages are a popular accommodation option for older Australians with more than 184,000 seniors across the nation calling a retirement village home.

Across Australia, around 15 per cent of the population is aged 65 years or older, and around 5.7 per cent of this cohort lives in a retirement village. This is expected to grow to around 7.5 per cent within a decade.

The largest industry survey done to date, the 2013 McCrindle Baynes Village Census, found nine out of ten residents used the sale of their family home to pay their ingoing contribution to live in the village. Three quarters of these family homes were sold for under $500,000, with 40 per cent selling for between $300,000 and $499,999.

The majority (82 per cent) of village residents receive the Australian age pension, with 44 per cent receiving the full age pension and 38 per cent receiving a part aged pension.

Health and motivation for moving

More than half of older Australians have some form of disability and a fifth need help with core activities, so it is no surprise that seniors often consider their health when deciding where to live in old age. Seven of the top ten reasons older Australians gave for moving from their family home specifically related to their or their spouse’s health.

It is common for villages to have arrangements with health professionals; 30 per cent of residents used visiting medical services and over a third used on-site medical services. More than 70 per cent of residents have used an emergency call button in their village.

Accessing care is extremely important, with three quarters of residents choosing their village because care could be delivered on site, and around half of residents being influenced due to the co-location of an aged care facility.

Retirement village living can help the wellbeing of older people. Social isolation is a very real problem for many older people, and one which can be eliminated by communal village living. Three quarters of all village residents participate in activities organised by their village every week or month. Over half of residents belong to social clubs or community groups and half undertake volunteer work.

It is common for residents to be visited by family and friends, with more than half of residents welcoming weekly visitors and a quarter having visitors every month.

In a retirement village, 45 per cent of residents have a partner (married or de facto) and 43 per cent are widowed. Happiness is high amongst residents, with three quarters being happy or very happy with their decision to move into their village and would make the same decision again.

Age and location

Most older people who downsize want to stay in the same area. Around half of residents chose a village up to 10 kilometres from their previous home, with 17 per cent choosing a village between 11 and 20 kilometres away.

The average entry age of new residents is 76 years overall, with newer villages have a younger average entry age ranging from 72 to 80 years, and established villages have an average entry age of 79 years. Not-for-profit villages with on-site aged care have an average entry age of over 80 years.

Most existing residents are from the “builder” generation (born 1925 to 1946). However, baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are now entering retirement age and will look to move into retirement villages.

Builders lived through the Great Depression and World War II, while Boomers grew up in a time of relative economic growth. Each of these generations present different characteristics and preferences when it comes to retirement village living: builders generally have more modest expectations and aspirations, while boomers have a higher net worth and are more attracted to the lifestyle benefits of villages, and generally have greater expectations about the quality of housing and services.

Satisfaction

Surveys and research shows the vast majority of retirement village residents enjoy village life and are glad they made the decision to move. However, a small number of residents are dissatisfied.

It is important for people considering a retirement village to make an informed choice - retirement village living is not for everyone. Prospective residents should undertake their own research, visit different villages, speak with village managers and residents, and seek professional financial and legal advice on the proposed contract.

Most state governments produce information sheets and booklets about retirement village living, and list the matters prospective residents should check before making a decision. The financial and contractual model used in many retirement villages is unique to the sector, and different to the familiar practice of purchasing a family home (equity and mortgage confers legal title) or renting a home (periodic lease).

Retirement villages provide many services that living in the general community does not. The retirement village model is designed to enable the ingoing contribution fee to be affordable – often more affordable than a unit of equivalent size and quality in the local area – and for communal facilities to be built.