The rising number of working older Australians will transform the nation’s over 50s housing industry, including requiring dramatic changes to mortgage finance products, home design, State regulations and industry marketing terms.
The research brief finds that, in December 2021, the percentage of Australians between 60 and 64, and 50 to 54, who were working was at record levels, while the employment rate for people aged 55 to 59 and over 65 was at near-record levels.
This means that 3.99 million Australians over 50 are currently working.
If the workforce and population changes recorded over the last decade are replicated in the next decade, this is expected to increase to 5.2 million working over 50s by 2031, including some 1.17 million aged over 65.
The later working trend is being driven by a range of factors, including increasing mortgage levels, improved health and education levels, COVID-19 skills shortages and a desire for older Australians to earn income in times of economic and investment uncertainty.
The research brief finds the implication of this change will include:
- More over 50s housing operators providing work areas such as study nooks and multi-purpose rooms in homes, along with communal workplace facilities
- More financial products coming on to the market, to assist over 50 mortgage holders to be able to transfer part or all of their debt when they move into age-appropriate housing
- Pressure on some State Governments to change their definition of ‘retirement villages’ to better cater for full-time working seniors
- Over time, the industry term ‘retirement living’ being used less often and more inclusive terms such as ‘downsizer-friendly’, ‘third age’ or ‘lifestyle’ housing being used instead.
Downsizing.com.au CEO Amanda Graham said irrespective of the fact they are still working or holding a mortgage, many Australians over 50 are still likely to be keen to move into age-appropriate housing.
“This includes the ability to live within a community of people of a similar age, to be able to access safe housing with limited or no trip and step hazards, to experience a new lifestyle and to have reduced housing maintenance,” Ms Graham said.
“However, there is a need to recognise that, in coming years and decades, more over 50s housing communities are likely to include a blend of both working and retired people.
As a result, we expect that the industry term ‘retirement living’ will become dated and more housing providers, particularly those targeting people under 65, will use more inclusive marketing terms which embrace working people.
“In addition, the huge increase in average mortgage levels for people over 55 means that there needs to be a greater focus on products which allow people to move these mortgages across into what was traditionally retirement housing.”
Ms Graham said over 50s housing developers were increasingly providing workplaces in homes, and this trend was only likely to accelerate.
For instance, office suites are available for sale at Akoya, an over 55s apartment building proposed on Sydney’s north shore. Meanwhile, Aura’s Somerset Indooroopilly retirement village, which opened in January 2022 at Brisbane’s Indooroopilly Golf Club, has a ‘business centre’ for residents to hold meetings or meet clients.
“In the future, we expect the focus of over 50s communities will be more about lifestyle than retirement, which will mean people will expect facilities that allow them to keep working alongside places of leisure, relaxation and recreation,” she said.
Ms Graham also said that two Australian States, South Australia and Tasmania, both define retirement villages as places predominantly occupied by people who are over the age of 55 and are not working full-time.
“This differs to the approach taken by other Australian States and Territories, which anticipate people over 55 and still working full-time as potential retirement village residents,” Ms Graham said.
“It is likely that statutory definitions which don’t embrace working people in retirement housing will over time, come under pressure to be amended.”
Peter and Linda are still running their business
Peter and Linda Hockin, who are homeowners in B by Halcyon community in Buderim in Queensland, are an example of a couple who've moved into what would be regarded as a 'retirement community', but are still working.
“We’ve got our own business in the area,” Peter said.
“We’ve got our own brand of swimwear and sun-protective clothing – Stingray – and we also supply book packs and stationery to local primary and junior schools.”
Peter and Linda made the move to B by Halcyon after deciding to downsize as they transitioned into their next stage of life.
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