Retirement communities are playing an increasing role delivering a range of healthy living and care services to their residents, to allow them to maintain their independence and good health.
This piece seeks to explain the wide range of healthy living and care services offered by retirement communities, to help inform our readers who may be looking at moving into one of these communities.
Difference between retirement communities and aged care facilities
Before talking about care services in retirement communities, It’s worth first spelling out the important differences between these communities and aged care facilities.
Residential aged care facilities - also known as nursing homes - are Federally funded and regulated facilities which provide care for residents who are no longer able to live on their own and require around-the-clock medical support.
For many people in aged care facilities, it is effectively end of life care and their move into these facilities is largely involuntary.
Retirement communities - including retirement villages and land lease communities - are a completely different prospect. They are regulated by States and Territories and provide accommodation for people who are continuing to lead an active lifestyle and can live independently in their own homes.
However, as outlined below, retirement communities are increasingly providing an environment and services which delays the need for their residents to have to move into aged care.
Retirement communities provide social connections
At the outset, it’s important to point out that the best way to avoid needing care services is to lead a socially connected and active lifestyle.
Fortunately, retirement communities typically provide a great healthy living environment.
For starters, retirement communities help residents remain connected with neighbours and friends, which may not be the case in the general community.
This is important, given that research has found that a lack of meaningful social connection is linked with reduced quality of life and many adverse health outcomes
Retirement communities typically have spaces designed to facilitate socialising, while the 2020 Retirement Census found 92 per cent of retirement villages have a community centre and 91 per cent have a social committee or program.
Retirement communities provide an active lifestyle
Another vital component of mental and physical health is, of course, regular physical activity.
Recent research has concluded that physically active people aged 60 years and over are at reduced risk for numerous health issues (including some cancers, dementia, and depression), reduced risk of death from all causes, and have better quality of life and cognitive function.
With benefits like these, it’s not surprising retirement communities are including facilities and services that promote an active lifestyle.
- 53% have a wellness centre or visiting health professional
- 46% have a gym (often one specifically designed for over 50s)
- 45% have a bowling green
- 58% have a pool
Services like these may reduce the likelihood of residents needing full-time care.
In fact, research has found that retirement village residents live independently for five years longer than the national average.
Commissioned by the Retirement Living Council and undertaken by public accountants Grant Thornton in 2014, the report found the average age of entry to aged care from a retirement village was 84, compared to the national average age of 79.
Assisted living services
Many retirement communities, and in particular retirement villages, provide assisted living services.
Assisted living services are not care services but are designed to help with day-to-day living jand make it easier for residents to continue to live in their own homes.
These services are sometimes tied to specific accommodation types in retirement communities, which are typically known as ‘serviced apartments’ or ‘assisted living units’.
Assisted living services may include having meals delivered, regular cleaning, assistance with transport, and help for personal care activities such as showering.
You can also access help for health needs, including medication management and visits from allied health professionals such as occupational therapists and dietitians.
These services may be provided by the retirement community operator, or could be accessed by the resident from another provider.
Visiting health professionals
You’ll often find that retirement communities have regular visits from health professionals, along with rooms to accommodate these professionals.
The 2020 Retirement Living Census reports that 53 per cent of retirement villages have a wellness centre or visiting health professional.
It’s well worth asking your prospective retirement village about these facilities and visits.
Home care is an umbrella term for a wide range of services delivered by community providers to allow people to continue living independently.
Just as a resident is able to organise a carer to help them in their house in the suburbs, they are also able to organise any care provider of their choice to come into their home in a retirement village or lifestyle community.
It just so happens that for many retirement community residents, that care provider may also be the operator of their retirement community - or a partner service.
In fact, around 22 per cent of retirement villages have home care provided on-site by the village operator. Land lease community operators are less likely to offer home care services.
If you need entry level support, you may be eligible for a government subsidised Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP). This gives you access to various services, such as social support, personal care, home maintenance, domestic assistance, allied health and nursing care.
People needing more support than the CHSP can provide may be eligible for a Home Care Package (HCP). These packages give you more control over who delivers your care and can be used for services that promote your health and wellbeing at home and in your community.
There are four levels of support from a Level 1 package for people with basic care needs to Level 4 for people with high-level care needs.
It’s also worth noting that around 84 per cent of retirement villages have an emergency call system, which means you can get round-the-clock assistance if necessary.
Care hubs are an emerging model in retirement villages.
Care hubs are a more intensive form of home care, but still different to an aged care facility.
Residents continue to occupy independent living units, but those with higher care needs are brought together in a central location (or ‘hub’) alongside an in-house and permanent home care provider.
This ensures residents are always in close proximity to the care services they need. This model is currently used in some retirement villages.
Co-located aged care facilities
Around 30 per cent of retirement villages have an Australian Government-registered residential aged care facility either onsite or within 500 metres.
This figure has steadily risen from 12 per cent when data was first collected in 2014.
Under this arrangement, residents may be able to move from their independent living dwellings into full-time care in a nearby facility if needed.
This means, for instance, if one partner needs care in the facility, the other can remain in their home and easily visit their partner.
You’re probably familiar with the idea of a hotel concierge who looks after the needs of arriving guests. This emerging care model parallels this approach.
Residents can access a community-organised concierge who works with them to understand what’s important and how they want their lives to look. Then, they provide advice and help residents find care and support services to meet their needs.
Care concierge services can currently be found in some land lease communities and rental villages, but are also beginning to emerge in apartment buildings targeted at over 50s.
Comment from our CEO
Amanda Graham, CEO of Downsizing, says retirement living communities are playing an increasing role in delivering healthy living and care services.
“Retirement communities, and in particular retirement villages, are increasingly providing services to allow residents to continue to live independently but with the peace of mind of knowing that care and assisted living services are available if needed - to avoid or delay any later move into a nursing home,” Ms Graham said.
“Importantly, they are providing the social connections and healthy active lifestyle facilities to help people avoid the need for any care or assisted living services at all.
“These facilities, services and communal environment are a big part of the growing value that retirement communities are offering incoming residents.”
Find out more
Downsizing.com.au is Australia’s leading over 50s property portal and the ideal place to find a retirement community with healthy amenities and support services.
You can use the handy filter functions in our search fields when you’re looking for retirement living projects that offer healthy lifestyle and care services.