Retirement living managers should receive mandatory training so they better understand the needs of older people, according to the authors of a major survey of retirement village residents.
Dr Sue Malta of the National Ageing Research Institute said that despite the level of responsibility retirement living managers had they often received little or no training.
Disputes in retirement villages are commonplace, despite states advocating for the implementation of dispute resolution processes, she said.
Dr Malta and her colleague Sue Williams recently gave evidence to the Victorian Legal and Social Issues Committee, which has started an inquiry into the operation and regulation of the retirement housing sector.
NARI was commissioned by the Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria to conduct an independent survey to understand motivations for moving into retirement villages, experiences and concerns.
“Nearly 2,000 responses were received, demonstrating the level of interest among residents,” Dr Malta said.
The survey showed that more than 400 new residents reported issues that were of significance to them, such as delays, building issues, availability of promised facilities and complicated or poorly written contracts.
“For 170 of these cases the issues were not resolved before moving in and were unlikely to be resolved in the near future,” Dr Malta said.
“This is of concern to us and reflects the need for improving communication between village managers and their residents and learning more about the needs and expectations of older people.”
There is currently no requirement for managers to be trained and, as one report outlined, “there is no regulation to prevent unsuitable people managing and operating retirement villages,” Dr Malta told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“As our study found, some residents don’t even know if their villages have a dispute resolution process in place and whilst resident committees can be effective, in some cases, village managers are part of the committee.
“Such a scenario presents difficulties for residents and raises the spectre of conflict of interest on account of the managers.”
Queensland has six consumer dispute resolution centres throughout the state, which is a great initiative which could be replicated elsewhere, said Dr Malta.
“However, managers still require good communication skills to be able to navigate the mediation process in the first place and to respect residents’ rights. Responses from our study, for instance, indicated that some managers behaved unprofessionally and were not at all clear about their boundaries – befriending residents and playing ‘favourites’ with some, while ostracising others.”
Issues could escalate given the increasing blurring of the line between retirement villages and aged care – witnessed in the growing number of retirement providers delivering home care either directly or through partnerships with aged care providers.
“The possibility of escalating issues arising from onsite service provision and/or co-location, particularly when retirement villages deliver the home care packages, themselves certainly raises some concerns,” said Dr Malta.
These included staff training requirements and the legal ramifications if things go wrong, and whether there are enough safeguards in place around retirement villages charging further “additional” fees for providing such services onsite, she said.
Want to have your say on this story? Comment below. Send us your news and tip-offs to firstname.lastname@example.org