Why seniors opt for village life

Choosing retirement living makes a lot of sense for a few simple reasons, writes Bruce Webb.

The decision to move to retirement living is rarely made quickly or on impulse. It’s a choice based on factors impacting both the prospective resident(s) and their loved ones.

While roughly 260,000 Australians over the age of 55 currently live in some form of retirement village, the lifestyle isn’t necessarily right for all seniors. Some feel more comfortable remaining in the family home, with support services visiting them when they need it. Others require a higher level of care offered in a residential aged care environment.

For those who choose retirement living as their next stage of life there are clear benefits, including a secure community environment with a range of leisure and support opportunities. Retirement villages provide independent accommodation and include a range of facilities and services such as libraries, meeting rooms, social activities and visits from healthcare professionals.

Bruce Webb

What some may not realise is that many retirement living residents are still working and a large portion continue to enjoy very active, independent lives outside of their community.

A huge number travel frequently, hold positions of responsibility in the broader community and many feel they are the healthiest they’ve been their entire lives.

To get an idea of why seniors make this choice, Benetas recently surveyed 189 residents across its three sites – Bridgewater Lake in Roxburgh Park, St John’s Rise in Mooroolbark and Dalkeith Heights in Traralgon.

Of the respondents, 62 per cent were women and almost 80 per cent were born in Australia with the average age sitting in the late 70s. Around 53 per cent had lived in their respective retirement villages for more than four years and 8 per cent for more than a decade. More than 70 per cent of respondents felt they were in either very good or good health.

The survey posed a range of questions including why they chose to move out of the family home and why they chose retirement living. The results highlighted that around 90 per cent of respondents chose retirement living as an easier, simpler alternative to the maintenance required at their previous home.

They were also attracted to the fact that retirement living units came in various shapes and sizes, with very little maintenance required inside and outside the home. In a retirement community, residents have access to a range of affordable services and amenities when needed. They can stay active with lawn bowls, swimming pools, gyms as well as more social activities such as billiards and darts.

Many also maintain the same connections to the community they had before retirement living, with a multitude of transport options and planned activities available at their doorstep. Some of our residents are Commonwealth Home Support Program and Home Care Package recipients, receiving social support that helps link them with the broader community. This includes outings to local shopping centres, garden centres, nurseries, parks and beaches.

The second most common reason for choosing retirement living was security, with 74 per cent citing the self-contained nature of the communities, village staff and the essential 24-hour emergency call system. While many retirement living residents are healthy and active, many find it reassuring knowing that living within a retirement village provides them that extra level of security and assistance when needed.

Finally, more than half of respondents were drawn to the community nature and the ability to form long-lasting relationships (55 per cent). Regular group activities foster strong opportunities to meet and form long-lasting relationships with neighbours.

Our three retirement living communities run a multitude of activities and initiatives on site, many of which attract members of the broader community to the village. The Bridgewater Lake Art Show in particular has become a staple for the people in the Hume area over the past 12 years and a beacon for art communities in Melbourne’s north to come together once a year.

Seminars and visits by celebrities and people of interest are common across the three sites, while educational sessions ranging from technology tips to arts and crafts lessons ensure residents never stop learning. As they age, seniors are encouraged to remain social and connected for both physical and mental health and retirement villages very much facilitate this.

We know the demand for residential and home aged care will rise over the next couple of decades as baby boomers gradually leave the workforce. While some will opt to stay in the family home as long as they possibly can, many will look to a retirement living alternative in order to maintain their independence in a secure, inclusive community environment.

That next step is an important decision for the resident or residents involved. The factors that inform that decision will be dictated by how and where they want to spend the next stage of their life.

Bruce Webb is general manager of strategy, infrastructure and housing at Benetas

Main image: St John’s Rise resident Gayle with her dog Mia

Comment on the story below. Do you have an opinion to share about an issue or something topical in the aged care sector? Get in touch at editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au

Tags: benetas, bruce webb, retirement living, retirement villages,

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