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Increasing acuity challenges retirement villages

The changing needs of retirement village residents combined with ageing housing stock is challenging the retirement living sector, a forum has heard.

The average age of residents in retirement villages is now 80 – up from 55 two decades ago – and seniors are now entering retirement villages aged 75, a number which is rising each year, says Ben Myers, executive director of retirement living at the Property Council of Australia.

Across 2,200 villages nationally, there are 184,000 retirement village residents accounting for almost 6 per cent of the over-65 population.

“The average age of our retirement village stock is 24 years and that in itself presents some challenges when it comes to this issue of appropriate housing,” Mr Myers told the Council on the Ageing Australia’s 2017 National Policy Forum in Canberra yesterday.

While people generally moved to retirement villages in order to live independently, rather than to receive care, things were changing fast, Mr Myers said.

“If you were at a retirement village conference two years ago and said you were going to be involved in the delivery of care, your colleagues would have asked if you were crazy. But increasingly retirement villages – through the Living Longer Living Better reforms – are becoming places where people go to and look to for care.”

The changes in mobility and cognitive needs of residents are presenting a problem in the function of village accommodation, he said.

“When we are talking about older people wanting to live in their village for longer and looking to that village for care, we as an industry have some issues to deal with in terms of obsolescence of our properties over the coming years.”

Accessibility of retirement villages is another issue for the industry, Mr Myers said. The average entry price for a resident was $398,000, which would be a challenge for a lot of seniors, particularly those in regional areas where housing prices are lower.

However, new models are emerging, such as the fast expansion of the manufactured home model in recent years, which is particularly viable and attractive in regional areas, he said.

Mr Myer reiterated comments from Grattan Institute CEO John Daley that governments across Australia had to do more in the planning space to enable more seniors housing to be built.

“Affordability comes down to both the provision of affordable seniors housing, but also the ability of developers of retirement villages to be able to cut out some of the red tape burdens they have across the country, which are more than for other developers.”

Dr Judith Yates

Struggle for seniors in private rental

Elsewhere, numerous speakers at the forum noted the hardship facing seniors in private rental.

Dr Judith Yates, a housing economic, finance and policy researcher at University of Sydney, said the big problem was for those in private rental, who were spending more than 30 per cent of household income on housing with some paying 50 per cent or more.

Using income as a measure of wellbeing was not effective because many older homeowners had considerably greater wealth than older renters.

Around 126,000 older households, which is 6 per cent of the two million older households nationally, are in private rental today.

While that number is relatively small, Dr Yates said her “back of envelope estimation” showed  the proportion of private renting seniors would jump to 20 per cent over the next few decades.

For low income, low wealth renters more affordable social and private rental housing was needed, Dr Yates said.

For retiree households with modest income and modest wealth, policies needed to help people access the equity in their homes and downsize their accommodation, she said.

While for those retiring with adequate income and wealth, policies should look at including the family home in the assets test and reforming the tax system.

Australian Ageing Agenda was the event’s media partner.

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2 Responses to Increasing acuity challenges retirement villages

  1. Stephen Irving July 3, 2017 at 11:42 am #

    If the Retirement Village Acts in Australia had suitable amendments allowing scheme operators to rent out empty units in villages this would have an impact as it would encourage more units to be built. Renters would have to be over 55 years of age.

  2. beatrice July 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm #

    There are many many retirement villages being built and many existing. This reflected that developers falsely assumed that retirees are wealthy. There are many many unsold properties in retirement villages – many vacant for many years. How many of us could purchase a house in a retirement village and pay a few hundred dollars a week in fees. Those who are receiving the pension will never be able to find the money. Neither can those people (who have a small saving and receiving an income stream from their superannuation) afford to pay a few hundred dollars in fees to retirement village. Retirement village are for the super rich – only they can afford to waste their money paying for swim pool, tennis court, recreation hall that they rarely used, or wait for an opportunity to use. If you look at the financial situation of elderly of today, none of us will be able to live in exorbitant retirement village. I prefer to live in a small, safe private duplex among healthy people of similar caliber. No one is building. Developers are building 2 story structures that no one can afford to buy but they will be rented out.

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