When Kathryn Greiner, who chaired the NSW inquiry into retirement living, suggested integrating retirement living with high-rise residential apartments where people of all ages live, she was echoing the sentiments of retirement village operators, architects and developers.
Land costs are a huge factor in development as is providing services. The current model, based mainly on cheaper land outside city centres and developments that model themselves on a horizontal village style, is being challenged. Vertical living, even under a retirement village financial model, might help the numbers and the offer make more sense.
When you’ve lived most of your life within a vibrant community, and especially if you’ve lived in the inner city, when it comes to retirement you don’t necessarily want to be shuffled off to the suburbs once you’ve retired.
Sure, if you’re into gardening, desire the outdoor pool and barbecue area and don’t mind being on the outskirts of a city, then you’ll enjoy these village-style retirement communities. However, many of us who are at (or near) the age when we feel we want to realise the capital in our family homes (to fund a slower lifestyle) want to continue to feel connected. The key to this is living in a walkable neighbourhood – and to achieve this goal, we’ll likely turn to vertical living.
Importance of a walkable neighbourhood
Our friend Sonja, who lives in the eclectic Potts Point suburb of Sydney, has spent over half of her 65 years in an apartment. She has everything at her doorstep – important as she doesn’t drive and lives alone. Within a few minutes’ walk, she has five theatres, seven doctors’ surgeries, five pharmacies, a council-run library with business facilities, exercise classes (both paid and free councils-sponsored), three supermarkets, three bus stops and a train station.
The area is also blessed with many cafés and restaurants. The only downside is a limited number of banks but given that most people rarely use cash and do all their banking by phone or internet, this is an issue mainly for businesses that need to bank cash.
In this neighbourhood, only around 50 per cent of residents own a car; everyone walks to do their grocery shopping, visit the growers’ market, go to the theatre, meet friends for lunch or join one of the many exercise groups in nearby Rushcutters Bay park.
As one of the most densely populated suburbs in Australia, Potts Point/Elizabeth Bay is a diverse community with many occasions for everything from a casual chat on the street with a neighbour to volunteering and part-time work opportunities. And all of this is within walking distance.
However, with land in short supply and so costly, the only way is up. These days you’re more likely to find vertical retirement living in centres like Normanhurst, Westmead and Macarthur in Sydney, Carindale in Brisbane or Moorabbin in Melbourne. There are, however, more inner-city retirement communities coming on to the market. Communities in walkable neighbourhoods have the advantage of enabling older people to remain independent for longer.
What are the advantages of vertical living?
We know that in 2021, 41 per cent of all new retirement villages contained multi-storey buildings, up from 33 per cent in 2020. Why is this? Well, as we mentioned in a previous article about 13 amazing new vertical retirement villages across Australia, the high cost of land means developers need to realise a higher yield so they can provide the services and amenities that retirees who move to these towers expect.
On a personal note, we wouldn’t move to a retirement community unless it had ‒ at a minimum ‒ a swimming pool and a community space that was available to all residents for gatherings, meetings and family celebrations.
Luxury vertical retirement living
Our generation of potential retirees (given that most of us have no intention of retiring fully until we’re forced into it) want to be in a vibrant community with easy access to restaurants, shopping, good transport links, the arts and medical facilities. And if your retirement village offers these plus its own gym, pool, cinema, library, rooftop vegetable garden, world-class security systems, smart apartment technology or even a golf course, what’s not to like?
The current flush of developments are architecturally harmonious with the local architectural vernacular, from the traditional Federation style of The Rose by Moran, a luxury retirement villa in Wahroonga in Sydney’s north that boasts its own wine cellar to Ardency Kennedy Place, a Lendlease transformation of the former Nine Network’s Richmond studio in Melbourne.
Unlike most residential apartment buildings where you might not know the name of your next-door neighbour, vertical retirement villages with on-site managers actively encourage interactions – sometimes subtly through the introduction of a café on the ground floor to more obvious hosting of regular get-togethers. Communal facilities and services that might include exercise classes or singing groups or men’s workshops are in place to ensure that residents can still feel connected and safe.
We need only look only to the award-winning retirement developments of recent years, such as The Grace Albert Park in inner Melbourne. With its high-end finishes, communal roof garden, residents’ lounge and bar, this offering is more akin to a luxury hotel than our imagined version of retirement living. Expect to see retirement villages developed to a theme, much as hip and characterful hotels such as those of Ovolo, Selina, and Moxy by Marriott have done globally.
Need help navigating your retirement options?
We have a wide range of new homes, premier and eestablished retirement properties in a multitude of Australian locations suitable for downsizers and retirees on our site. Check them out, or reach out to our team to help answer your questions.