*This article first appeared in our latest Property360 digital magazine
Moving into retirement development is a big decision for retirees and their families, and there are many considerations to take into account.
Often just discussing the option to move into such accommodation is a tricky one for families to broach and can lead to friction.
Retirement villages offer the advantages of independent living in your own space, without the time-consuming maintenance of your own home, says Garry Reed, managing director of Evergreen Lifestyle Villages.
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And there is anecdotal evidence such a lifestyle even boosts your life expectancy, thanks to the amenities they offer.
But firstly, how do you know the time is right to make such a move? And once this decision has been made, how do you choose the accommodation best for you?
The experts offer this advice:
When is it time to move?
Phil Barker of Renishaw Property Developments says this is a very subjective decision and one that is often taken when people’s health starts to fail. His experience is that the vast majority of people leave it later than they should.
“The increase in stress levels of moving home is directly proportional to the age of the mover. Everyone handles stress differently, so this is not a universal law, but moving at 65 is generally far less stressful than moving home at 75. One needs to be proactive and understand that age-related illnesses come upon one suddenly.
“The retiring baby-boomer generation is more proactive in this regard and there are more people moving into mature lifestyle villages in their late 50s early 60s, which is the ideal time, bearing in mind modern villages cater for an active lifestyle.”
Barker suggests families encourage their elderly loved ones to visit friends or relatives who have made the move.
Considerations for moving to a modern retirement village
Reed says the main considerations revolve around:
* Physical health: In later life, the importance of being able to access medical care quickly and easily while not breaking the bank, will become a priority, so having healthcare facilities and trained professionals close at hand means that you will be able to enjoy your golden years without worrying unduly about these unforeseen eventualities.
* Mental health: Loneliness, boredom and social isolation become a reality as you age, particularly if you’re stuck behind high walls in the suburbs, nursing a spouse, or no longer able to drive. Retirement villages however are home to vibrant communities of elderly people who are keen to make new friendships, to stay active, and even to learn new skills. There’s always something to do, and someone to do it with.
* Home and garden maintenance: Cooking, cleaning and gardening all get much more difficult as you age, and keeping up with home maintenance can be both onerous and costly. In modern retirement villages, professional teams take care of all aspects of daily life – like cleaning, painting and repairs, gardening and landscaping, healthcare, housekeeping, laundry, and catering.
* Safety and security: At most professionally run retirement villages, 24-hour security is part of the package. And if you do go away on holiday, you can simply lock up and go, knowing your home is safe and secure.
* Financial peace of mind: When you buy into a retirement village, you get a lifestyle that suits your needs in every way.
Choosing the right village
Barker advises prospective purchasers to visit at least five villages to make comparisons.
“We propose that the prospective purchaser draws up a comprehensive list of questions that should be satisfactorily answered by the salesperson. The list will be long but should always start with security, which is paramount.”
A wall or electrified fence and gatehouse alone are not sufficient.
“Security must include 24/7 CCTV monitoring of the fence line in a professionally operated control room with an armed response back up. Thermal cameras are always preferable to optical.”
Other questions to ask relate to health-care provision, the monthly levy and what it covers, community life and facilities, and the financial strength of the body corporate. Buyers must obviously also check that prices and payment options suit their budgets, Barker says.
Many senior living communities are aware that retired people don’t want to give up their independence, they simply want a structure that is beneficial to their needs and preferred lifestyles – the right place for the right time in your life.
“Retirement neighbourhoods can use technology, expert service providers, and a wealth of options for living, eating, enjoying exercise and entertainment to ensure that residents are independent and happy”, says property developer and owner of Life Rights company Manor Lifeproperty Gus van der Spek.
The benefit of community
He adds that senior living communities lessen isolation, provide security, community and care, and that this has especially been the case during Covid restrictions which have seen older people facing intense isolation.
Living in a senior community can help residents create relationships with peers, carers, and service providers, and feel less alone.
Enjoying leisure activities with friends, such as playing bridge or participating in a book club, have been found to protect cognitive skills. Physical activity, such as walking and hiking, gardening or yoga, is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
“Senior living communities also reduce the instances of falls, one of the leading causes of injury and death, Van der Spek says. The likelihood of a fall going unnoticed in a senior community is low, as well-lit and clutter-free living areas prevent falls, and exercise and physical therapy can reduce their instances and severity.
How important are pets to you?
Whether or not a person can bring their pet along can be a deciding factor for some people. Many senior living communities allow pets, or in other cases, certain types of pets such as one small dog. Some facilities may offer care for pets if residents cannot care for their pets alone.
Medical care and amenities
Before choosing a senior living community, a person should be physically and cognitively assessed by a qualified nurse at the living facility, Van der Spek notes. They should also confirm the community’s procedures in the event of an emergency, their disaster preparedness, and which hospitals will be used for admission if necessary.
“This will help ensure a person receives the right level of care and can avoid revisions to their routines after they move in.”
The available services and amenities may also play a large role in the type of lifestyle a person can enjoy. Hospitality, dining, exercise and wellness, and medication management are typical offerings while gyms or swimming pools, libraries and hair salons can help a person maintain their preferred routines, or even pursue a healthier lifestyle.