Retirement Village Living – Q and A
What is the best age to enter a retirement villages?
Australians are living longer than ever before. Back in 1880, the average Australian life expectancy was 47. In 1965 it was 70.8 years and today Australians are living to 80.4 years (men) on average and 84.6 years (women).
In other words, a 76 year-old today, is like a 66-year-old of yesteryear.
Although people can enter a retirement home from age 55 and there is no “best age”, the new “average age” of entry to retirement home living today is now 72 in newer style facilities and slightly older in older style facilities. The average length of stay is to 8 years.
What is the occupancy rate of retirement villages?
Why do people like retirement home living?
There is also often onsite medical assistance or nursing staff, and communal activities such as social outings, wine-tastings, sporting activities and a calendar of other social activities.
More and more retirement villages today are pet-friendly, provided your pet does not disturb neighbours.
What is a “vertical” retirement village?
There is an increasing trend towards “vertical” villages (high-rise apartment living), as opposed to horizontal or broadacre facilities.The theory behind vertical villages is that building denser and taller housing facilities is not only more cost effective for builders, but creates more “accidental meeting opportunities” for seniors to socialise.
Lifts are also a big plus for many residents in vertical high rise situations.
Furthermore, being located in a high density epicentre, means residents have access to shopping, museums, theatres and other facilities.
What are the pros and cons of retirement village living?
- You can save time on chores and maintenance. Generally you can throw the lawn mower and hedge trimmer away. All you have to do is clean and maintain your own small place. This is an important consideration for people with mobility or medical problems as it means very little home maintenance.
- Onsite medical assistance and GPs often visit retirement villages or nurses can escalate issues with residents and their GPs.
- Falls are significantly reduced in retirement village living and there are significantly less hospital admissions compared with people who live at home.
- More and more retirement villages now offer transition to aged care facility, which means you don’t have to move again, you may be able to just update/move apartments, to something with step free thresholds. Others offer dementia-friendly sensory perception facilities (eg wayfinding plants or a coloured door residents will recognise).
- People in retirement homes enter aged care five years later than those who are going into aged care from family homes*, and social activities offer positive mental health benefits.
- There are lots of social activities – that range from theatre trips through to happy hour, concerts, wine tastings, billiards tables, dance floors, beekeeping facilities and libraries.
- Many retirement homes are ‘pet friendly’.
- The monthly service fees for retirement living are not cheap and can range from $280 to $1000 a month according to a recent CHOICE report (see below).
- If you are on a deferred management fee plan, your fees and charges are deducted when the unit is sold. This can mean a huge chunk of the sales price of a retirement unit is retained by the village managers. It is very important to speak to a financial planner about capital gains implications of your retirement investment too.
- You will not be exposed to as much diversity in a retirement village – everyone living there is the same age.
- Many older Australians believe they have to first live in a village to guarantee a bed in aged care. This is not true. Villages and aged care facilities operate underly entirely separate legislation and cost structures. Whilst aged care has been heavily scrutinised in the recent Royal Commision, retirement villages were out of scope.
- There are many excellent facilities, but people have been burnt too – so it’s very much a case of buyer beware!
How do I use the retirement village calculator?
This NSW government link provides a useful guide to fees and costs calculator associated with retirement living.
What are the questions I need to ask about retirement village living?
LIFESTYLE QUESTIONS – FOR VILLAGE OPERATORS
- Will the apartment, as well as the services and facilities at the village be suitable for wheelchair as I get older?
- Are there any stairs, are room thresholds flush?
- Are there handrails? Are paths easy to access?
- Can you make changes to the inside of premises in the event you need a wheelchair? Who pays for these?
- Can visitors stay? What is the longest period they can stay?
- Do you accept meals on wheels?
- Do you have a mini-bus or what are transport services?
- What if I require emergency assistance?
- Does the residence run on gas or electricity? What are the fees typically?
- Who is responsible for appliance upkeep like fridges and air-conditioners?
- Once I sign my contract what is the cooling off period?
- Do I have to pay fees if I holiday overseas?
- When is the next open inspection day?
- How close is the facility to the things I love (eg dance studio, tennis courts, golf course?)
- How close is it the village to my friends and family?
- Can my pet come?
- What is the average length of time units in the village are on the market when it is time to “sell”?
- What if I can’t sell it or need to sell in a hurry?
- To what am I entitled if I pay a deposit?
- What will the ongoing contribution be? What do these charges include? How much will they go up in coming years?
- What’s the village policy if I meet a new partner and they move in?
- How is garbage collected and what days?
- Is there a lot of noise from traffic, aircraft, schools etc and what is the zoning area around the village?
- What are the residents rules?
- Are there any special levies coming up?
- How am I affected if the village is sold?
- What are the costs when I leave and onsell – eg marketing, refurbishment and exit fees?
- Is there adequate parking for visitors?
- Are there nearby facilities such as GPs, shops, hospitals, libraries, churches, clubs and public transport?
- Are the grounds pleasant and well-tended?
- What the security arrangements entail – e.g. is there sufficient external lighting?
FINANCIAL QUESTIONS – ASK US TO ASSIST WITH THESE
- Can you help me understand that I don’t really “own” my apartment, it’s more like a long-term rental agreement often with a deferred management fee at the end? Can you please explain the village fee structure?
- How will retirement living affect my pension?
- If we are a couple, what happens if one of us has an episode healthwise, eg can we meet the costs on a single pension?
- Am I better off downsizing to an apartment I own outright? Where are the best areas? What are my other options (eg Aged Care homes, stay at home with ACAT assessment and home help support, or Lifestyle Villages.
- How are these all different to retirement villages?
Property Council of Australia Report discusses how falls and hospital admissions are reduced in retirement village living.
Funding Your Retirement – A great article from the Australian Financial Review