How to put the care into retirement villages - without losing the ‘cool’ factor

23 February 2017

At last year’s Retirement Village Association’s conference, the CEO’s forum discussions turned to managing the many and varied expectations of residents in different age brackets. It is not so much a conversation about the young mingling with the old, rather the old with the very old.

1-beyond-the-village.jpgMany retirement villages have shifted their focus to offering residents a lifestyle that will continue to suit residents as they age and their needs change. This means that as well as the bowling green and the swimming pool, villages are also thinking about offering residents a continuum of care. Many villages now offer a range of accommodation options, from independent living villas, to assisted living apartments, to care suites, to rest-home level care and even hospital and dementia level care in some cases. JLL’s New Zealand Retirement Village Database research says that over 70 per cent of new village development offers higher care facilities.

The result is that villages are often left trying to provide a lifestyle that is befitting of an active 70-year old at the same time as providing end-of-life care for a 95-year-old. At the RVA CEO’s forum, Selwyn Foundation’s chief executive Garry Smith shared how his elderly mother referred to the older residents at her village as ‘the oldies’.

The challenge for villages as they incorporate care into their operations is how to keep the ‘cool’ factor – the things that attract the younger, healthier contingent.

The reality is that younger resident doesn’t really want to think of themselves as needing care yet, although they are reassured that the care is there for when they need it.

Pacific Coast Village at Mount Maunganui is a good example. After years of developing the villas and activity facilities it is now looking at including a care facility. Prior to this addition, about three years ago, resident Joan McFetridge told me that while care wasn’t an issue yet, she liked the knowledge that she would have direct access to a facility in the future.

Summerset believes this is also key to their success.

“Many of our residents who live independently say one of the benefits of our villages - apart from the vibrant lifestyle - is the security in knowing if their needs change, they’ll continue to be able to live in their own home,” says Summerset’s Michelle Brooker.  

“With demand for and curiosity about independent retirement village living on the increase, a priority for us is ensuring people see and hear about the amazing life they can lead in one of our retirement villages.”

JLL also notes that those villages that don’t offer care delivery are increasingly considering the proximity to aged care facilities. Some have entered into relationships with nearby care facilities to give their residents first dibs on a bed when the time comes.

Acacia Cove village is a good example of this. Manager Bruce Cullington admits that if the village was built now they probably would have incorporated a care facility, but the layout doesn’t lend itself to including one now. The residents have firmly rejected the idea and Cullington suggests it would probably spoil the vibe of the village. But as fate would have it, Bupa has constructed a care facility across the road, to which Acacia Cove residents have priority access. 

Copper Crest village in Tauranga as a similar set-up. There is no care facility on site but Copper Crest has a Memorundum of Understanding in place with nearby Althorp Private Hospital, which provides hospital-level and specialist dementia care. The MOU essentially gives Copper Crest residents a fast-track pass into Althorp. With Althorp now under the Radius umbrella, Copper Crest’s MOU extends to other Radius facilities, allowing them rest home-level care should their needs assessment head them in that direction. This continuum of care agreement allows them to tick this box without the risk of ‘ageing’ the village. In fact, the average resident age at Copper Crest is around 70 years.

Yet research shows the age of entry into retirement villages is creeping up.

“Commonly in retirement village literature the 65+ rate is discussed; however, research has revealed that a vast majority of residents living in retirement village accommodation are 75+ years in age,” states the JLL report.

The take-home message for retirement village operators is to constantly reassess what your residents and future residents are going to want next, and look at how to provide that.

Evergreen Marketing guru Gill Walker advises retirement developers to watch mainstream property marketers more closely as their housing options without the ‘age tags’ will have greater appeal to boomers in the next few years.

“Marketers who start to foster relationships within the community for social interaction will help build bridges faster and will be appealing to boomers.

“Intergenerational developers have a head start, especially with boomers – they just need to build the right product.”

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