A big jump in the number of couples living in retirement villages over the last year has been linked to a new breed of ‘helicopter children’ who are encouraging their parents to downsize during COVID-19.

The Property Council of Australia’s 2020 Retirement Living Census found that 42 per cent of retirement village residents are couples, compared to 32 per cent last year.

During a webinar to discuss the findings, Lendlease’s retirement head Nathan Cockerill linked the change to children becoming more interested in their parents’ welfare during COVID-19, and initiating discussions about downsizing.

“I think most operators are actually seeing the children of the prospective residents, primarily the oldest daughter, (being) more active in the decision-making process of their parents looking for retirement villages,” Mr Cockerill said.

“During COVID, a lot of them were unable to visit their parents. Their parents were living in their homes, and they may have been overseas or interstate. 

“And they're a lot more active around worrying about their mum and dad, and looking at what the retirement living sector was providing.

“And we have seen a lot more inquiry coming through from those people, and coming in, or inquiring online, and (then) bringing their parents through to look at this as an option.

“You might find that could be driving the couples in more so, because as I said, their children are more involved, and are facilitating their parents to move in.

“Where in the past, it's mostly likely that the male was reluctant to move in, and the female only moved in once the husband moved into higher care or passed away.”

“I think most operators are actually seeing the children of the prospective residents, primarily the oldest daughter, (being) more active in the decision-making process of their parents looking for retirement villages”  - Lendlease retirement living head Nathan Cockerill

Kerry Lehman, who is the co-founder of retiree-focussed marketing firm Brand Partners, agreed with Mr Cockerill’s analysis.

“I think in looking around, there has generally been an increase in the proportion of couples,” Ms Lehman said.

Data on couples in line with other recent reports

The comments are in line with a research paper published by Downsizing.com.au, which found that around one in threes Australians over 50 are now more likely to downsize as a result of COVID-19. The desire to move into a like-minded community, with care and other services, was a big motivator for many downsizers.

It also follows recent research by retirement living provider Stockland which found that, because of COVID-19, Australians aged over 55 are now increasingly wanting to retire near their family.

At the same time, the research found that adult children are now more likely to worry about their parents’ safety and security. In issuing a media release on the findings, Stockland said ‘helicopter children’ were now a factor in retirement living decisions.

Other Retirement Living Census findings on village residents

The Retirement Living Census also found that:

  • 44 per cent of retirement village residents were aged 75-84, with 32 per cent aged 85 plus and 21 per cent aged 65-74. Just three per cent were aged less than 65.
  • Tasmania had the youngest residents entering retirement villages, with an average age of 73. Victoria had the oldest, with an average age of 77.
  • Villages which have been built more recently are likely to have younger residents
  • Across Australia, retirement villages residents, on average, stay in the village for 7.5 years.
  • Around 64 per cent of retirement village residents are female
  • As mentioned above, 42 per cent of village dwellings are occupied by couples, with the other 58 per cent occupied by single people.

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