If your parents are getting older, it’s not unusual to land in a situation where one suddenly needs full-time care while the other remains healthy and active.

But how can you ensure that the parents can stay living together, when their personal needs are so different?

The good news is that more retirement villages than ever before - particularly new and larger campus-style villages - are responding to this situation by co-locating a residential care facility onsite. 

By doing this, one parent can receive the full-time care they need, while the other parent can live independently in a retirement village unit and still visit the one in care daily.

Difference between residential aged care facilities and retirement villages

Before further describing this arrangement, it is best to clearly spell out the difference between residential aged care facilities and retirement villages.

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. 

Retirement villages 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.

Despite these regulatory and living arrangement differences, many operators are creating campuses which combine both care facilities and retirement villages.

Co-location of care facilities is growing in popularity

This practice of locating a residential care facility on the same site as a retirement village is increasing.

According to statistics from the 2020 PwC/Property Council Retirement Census, 30 per cent of retirement villages now have an aged care facility either onsite or within 500 metres. 

This is up from just 12 per cent when the census began in 2014.

Importantly, the earlier that adult children and parents can inspect these co-located facilities, and plan ahead for future living arrangements, the easier the moving process is likely to be. 

This is because your parents may need to wait some time for an available spot in either the aged care facility or retirement village.

How this might look for your parents

To give you a better idea of what this arrangement might look like, Downsizing.com.au toured Sydney’s Uniting Westmead, a campus with 70 independent retirement village apartments and a 114-bed residential aged care facility on the same site. 

The apartments are on the eastern wing of the facility, alongside Parramatta Park, while the care facility is on the western wing. 

If you want to walk between the wings, it’s just a short trundle through the central lobby.

The overall campus includes a wide variety of communal facilities, including resident lounges, dining room, a cafe, chapel, seniors’ gym and barbecue area. 

One wing of the new Uniting Westmead project caters for independent living, while the other 
has a residential aged care facility

The site is just two minutes from Westmead Hospital, western Sydney’s principal referral hospital and home to a comprehensive range of specialist services, including oncology, cardiology, neurosurgery, advanced gastroenterology, and many more.

A central lobby of the Uniting Westmead facility services both independent living apartments
and aged care beds

The design of this site means one partner can live independently in an apartment if needed, while still being able to easily visit the other in the residential care facility.

Find out more: First tour inside new Sydney retirement living project next to an 85 hectare green oasis

Things to consider if your parents might need care soon

If your parents are getting older, it can help to think about their future needs before an urgent situation – such as the sudden need for care following a fall or medical procedure – crops up. You might want to do a bit of research about what options are available.

Some questions to consider include:

  • What sort of care services does the village offer - this may include a residential aged care facility and home care and assisted living services for residents living in retirement village apartments

  • Is it close enough for family and friends to visit?

  • Does it have onsite health and community facilities, such as a gym and visiting health professionals?

  • How close is it to medical facilities?

You might like to tour any sites you’re considering ahead of time, and chat with staff and residents to get a better feel for the place and the people.

Find out more: Healthy living and care in retirement communities: Your ultimate guide

To help make this process easier, Downsizing.com.au has search filters which allows you to searches for independent living facilities which also offer care services. Start your search for a place to suit your parents here.

Comment from our CEO

Downsizing.com.au CEO Amanda Graham said the move towards co-locating aged care facilities within retirement villages was logical. 

“It is not unusual for one parent to require full-time care, while the other is healthy and active, and for this situation to happen relatively suddenly,” Ms Graham said.

“The retirement living industry is responding to this situation by co-locating a care facility either on the retirement village campus, or nearby. 

“More importantly, it means partners, many of whom have been together for decades, can continue seeing one another.

“At the same time, the active and independent parent no longer has a full-time care burden looking after his or her partner, and can also enjoy all the great activities and social environment that a retirement village campus provides.”