Australia has over 2,200 retirement villages which cater for over 5.7% of the over 65 population. The idea of hassle-free living in a community setting is appealing to many, but how do you go about selecting the village that is right for you?
Retirement villages provide the attraction of combining an independent living space with shared facilities and services. They generally provide a feeling of security, increased opportunity for social contact and access to a variety of lifestyle activities.
If you or someone you care about is considering making the move to a retirement village, there are a range of issues to examine and compare in order to make a sound choice of village to meet your needs. Here are some of the more important ones to keep in mind.
Are you prepared for the change?
If you have been in your current home for some time, making the move can be quite an upheaval. That makes it imperative to give some thorough consideration of how your life will change in a new location. Will access to family and friends be more limited? Will you be able to readily source medical, health and recreation facilities and services that you want and need? How handy is the prospective village to shops and public transport?
Quality of life within the village
You need to be satisfied about the quality of the village’s property, amenities and service. This begins with the physical aspects of the buildings and how conducive the village set up is to a worry free lifestyle. Is there sufficient privacy for your unit/villa? Are common areas well-appointed and appealing? How well kept are the gardens and traffic areas? Are there noise issues coming from main roads or public places, such as clubs and shopping centres?
You also need to look deeper into the ‘vibe’ of the village. A good barometer for this is the happiness and friendliness of the people who live and work there. Talk to staff and other villagers and see how welcome they make you feel. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about the best and worst characteristics of living there.
Your quality of life is also impacted by how accommodating the village is to the people and activities that are important to you. Does the village have rules on pets? Does it have adequate provisions for entertaining family and friends who visit? Are there a variety of facilities, such as a library, bar, café, dining room, sporting facilities and social programs?
Understand the financial commitments
It is vital that you get a firm grasp of the financial aspects of living in the village. This should include gaining a complete picture of not just the upfront costs, but the ongoing maintenance fees, upkeep costs that the resident is responsible for and exit fees and capital gain sharing arrangements if you ever decide to leave. Don’t take anything for granted and be upfront in asking for documentation that can be scrutinised by financial and legal professionals. It is unlikely that you will be able to fully understand all the contractual and financial intricacies, so employ some professional assistance to make sure that there are no surprises down the track.
What about the future?
While you may well expect to spend a considerable time residing in the village, eventually there may be health or ageing issues that require a change in living situation. Check what the village offers in terms of medical or emergency support and how it caters for added services, such as cooking, cleaning and laundry. Such services may make a big difference in how practical it is to ‘age in place’. If movement to higher care accommodation becomes necessary, does the village have transition arrangements and what are the costs involved?
We are here to help
If you are considering the possibility of a retirement village, it’s a good idea to consult your adviser to assist with the financial aspects and to help refer you to the appropriate professional.