A new low-cost retirement village - where single older women can live together and share “friendships and food” - is being described as a potential future model to help females who need secure housing as they enter retirement.

The IRT Group has launched its Jasmine Grove project, which will be located within the Henry Brooks Estate retirement village which is currently under construction in the Wollongong suburb of Kanahooka, south of Sydney.

Jasmine Grove will include eight one bedroom self-contained villas, along with a shared communal kitchen and garden. 

The villas will be pet-friendly and include a kitchen, dining area, lounge room, laundry, outdoor storage and parking space. 

The shared spaces will include a full kitchen, dining table for eight residents, a lounge area with TV, an outdoor BBQ area, additional outdoor storage and shared vegetable garden.

Importantly, the villas will only cost $199,000, plus unspecified weekly costs - which is well below the cost of new market-price retirement village villas in the same area. 

The lower price has been made possible by funding from the Australian Government’s Building Better Regions Fund.

Women in project will be able to grow and eat their own food

IRT Group CEO Patrick Reid said his organisation is dedicated to housing innovation that meets identified needs for older Australians.

“We’re seeing a growing number of women over 55 who have real concerns about where they are going to live as they age,” Mr Reid said. 

“Women are retiring with 47 per cent less superannuation than men, yet their time in retirement is longer, with women living an average of five years longer.

“More options are needed for retired women living on their own that fits within their financial means while promoting friendship and social connection.

“Our vision is for Jasmine Grove to be a place where women share resources, grow friendships, community connections and support one another in living their best lives as they age.

“We hope future residents will enjoy cooking and sharing meals together in the communal kitchen made from fresh veggies they have grown in their own garden.”

Residents will also receive 50 hours of integrated IRT Home Care services within the first 12 months of residency. Construction of the Jasmine Grove project is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2021.

Jasmine Grove model may be unique in Australia

An IRT spokeswoman said the organisation was not aware of any similar housing models in Australia.

"We did find a retirement living provider in the USA who developed a similar model - we engaged with them to learn what went well and what they would improve if they had their time over again," the spokeswoman said. 

IRT is seeking expressions of interest from women over 55 to live at Jasmine Grove and collaborate with the organisation in defining how the co-housing community will function. 

Registrations of interest are being taken at www.irt.org.au/jasminegrove. See other projects from IRT here.

Need for affordable housing for older Australians

Government policy-makers and some not-for-profit developers - such as IRT - are recognising the need to ramp up the levels of affordable housing for older Australians.

For instance, major NSW housing provider Uniting is building new social and affordable housing, including for older Australians, with NSW Government support.

Downsizing.com.au also offers its free Seniors Flatmates service, to help seniors find shared rental accommodation.

Another affordable option for older Australians are seniors rental villages, which are typically located in regional areas and provide accommodation and food priced to the age pension amount.