A team of researchers from Queensland and New South Wales have found that current estimates of the popularity of retirement living are probably too low.
The ARC-sponsored research project on independent living for seniors found that 12.4 per cent of people over 65 on the Gold Coast live in some form of retirement village.
In contrast, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported that only 4.35 per cent of Australians over the age of 65 lived in self-care retirement village units in 2006.
Project leader Chiou See Anderson, from Bond University’s Faculty of Business, said the reason for the discrepancy was a narrow definition of retirement village used by the ABS.
“What we are trying to say is not that the ABS is wrong in collecting its data on retirement villages but that seniors accommodation includes many options beside communities regulated by the various retirement villages acts, such as manufactured homes parks and over 50s lifestyle resorts,” said Ms Anderson.
At the same time, the researchers said the results represented a significant opportunity for the industry.
“As an industry we do not have a central database. We had to go through so many sources just to find a sample group. There is an excellent chance for the peak body to be the voice of a group of citizens who proactively choose a lifestyle and environment that they believe will help them enjoy their later years,” said Ms Anderson.
She also said the findings present a compelling case to local governments and planning authorities.
“Planning policy needs to focus more on these communities,” said Ms Anderson.
“It’s a foregone conclusion that they are a popular choice. It’s time for councils to stop spending thousands of dollars in court, arguing about whether we need them or not.”
“The big issue now is how can we improve them and make them better?”