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Finding the Right Village

You want your retirement to be long, happy and stress free, and where you live plays a major role in this.

It is important to fully consider all aspects and research all housing options (Source: Shutterstock)
It is important to fully consider all aspects and research all housing options (Source: Shutterstock)

Everyone has a different idea of what they want from retirement. If you are thinking about moving from where you are living into a retirement village, it is important to fully consider all aspects and research all housing options of the village to ensure it fits with your reasons for moving.

Most importantly, no matter how keen you are to move, do not rush into making a commitment. You don’t want to move somewhere only to realise you’ve made a wrong decision.

What should I consider

When deciding on a retirement village, be clear about what you want, what you are prepared to compromise on and what you definitely don’t want.

To help you with the decision making process, here are some points to consider:

Finances: Know your budget, what you can afford and what other ongoing costs are required. Always seek expert legal and financial advice. Ask questions and ensure you fully understand all the financial and legal implications of living in a retirement village before you sign anything or hand any money over.

Lifestyle: Think carefully about how you spend your time now and how you want to spend your time in the future. For instance, if you are looking for a complete lifestyle change, you might consider a resort retirement village. Many villages now offer special interest facilities such as golf and tennis courts, and more are now accepting pets. You may also want to think about whether you want a garden or access to one.

Support: One of the attractions of a retirement village is the peace of mind of 24-hour help and assistance. Many villages now offer additional home support services. This is ideal if you need additional help with personal care, meals, laundry and domestic assistance.

Location: When looking at locations, you may want to consider whether you want to be closer to family or stay in or near the community you’re already in. You may have always dreamed of living by the sea or in the country, while proximity to shops may also be important to you.

Amenities: Villages now offer a massive range of amenities including libraries, restaurants, community rooms and barbeque areas. Ultimately you will be paying for these amenities through your weekly or monthly payments, so you may want to think about whether an all-weather indoor heated swimming pool or the caravan and boat parking is important to your needs.

Other accommodation: Your or your partner’s needs may change in the future, so you may also want to consider what other types of accommodation are available. Many developments are now offering serviced apartments and residential aged care at the same location, which means that even though your needs have might change, you can still live in the same community.

Do your research

Start by looking at retirement villages in the vicinity of where you live or where you would like to live and see whether what they are offering fits with your needs and wants.

Also look at general property prices in the area so you can gage what is a fair price for the type of home you’re looking for.

Find Retirement Villages in Australia

As with any property you are interested in, when you’ve found one you like the look of, drive around to get a feel for the area.

Arrange a meeting with the village operators and speak openly about what you are looking for and don’t be afraid to ask questions about any concerns. You will probably be given a tour of the village, but also ask if you can visit it at different times. If possible, see if you can attend social events so you can speak to current residents and get their perspective and experiences.

Ask to see a copy of the village rules/policies early on in the process so you know exactly what the legal structure is and you are aware of ongoing charges and other village regulations. For instance, some villages have a definite no pet rule. If you have a dog or cat which you do not want to part with, it is pointless pursuing opportunities with that retirement village further.

Some questions to ask

When you have found a village that really appeals to you visit the village a few more times. This will help you get to know the management and staff as well as the residents’ committee.

Make sure you get answers to all your questions. If you’re wondering what sort of questions to ask, here are some frequently asked questions:

What sort of ownership rights will I have?

When you buy retirement village accommodation – a villa or unit – you might not own it in quite the same way and with the same freedom you would own a normal house. Retirement village property ownership may come under different legislation including loans or licence, shares in a unit, community or strata title.

Some villages also offer rental opportunities.

Learn more about renting and owning

What about fees and charges?

Buying into a residential village is also different to a normal purchase in that you’ll usually have ongoing fees and charges for village maintenance and management. Always be sure to read the small print as you may be liable for these charges even when you’ve left the village and you’re waiting for your property to be re-occupied.

Learn about the costs & fees in retirement living

How secure is the village?

Many retirement villages have dedicated staff on call 24-hours a day. Depending on the style of retirement village there may also be gated entrances and secure parking. Others villages have additional safety measures such as security lighting on homes, security patrols at night and security cameras.

What if I move in and realise it isn’t for me?

Some retirement villages recognise this style of living isn’t for everyone, and may offer a ‘Settling-In Period’. This means you can opt out within a set time frame, but some charges may apply. Most village managers will work with you to fully explore the reasons why you are not satisfied and what can be done to rectify any issues.

Are guests allowed?

Family and friends are an integral part of our lives. Generally guests are welcome to stay with you and may also use the communal facilities while within your company. However, they may only be allowed to stay for up to a set period unless special permission is given. If they have a car, they will probably be required to park in specified areas.

What about pets?

While most villages appreciate the companionship that pets provide, some do exclude pets completely. If you are a pet lover, ask if pets are allowed, and if so, what type.

What communal facilities are on offer?

These cover the range of facilities and amenities available to village residents. For example, recreational, service and social facilities may include a library, barbecue area, community centre, restaurant, internet café, billiards, table tennis, indoor bowls, bowling greens, swimming pool and services such as doctors, physiotherapists, banking, hairdressers etc.

Check what communal facilities are available in the village to ensure they fit in with your lifestyle. You may also want to know what, if any, additional payments are needed to use some of the facilities.

What happens if there is a maintenance issue with my home?

Most retirement villages have an on-site maintenance manager who will organise maintenance and repairs. Who pays for these depends very much on what the issue is. Generally if it’s a problem with the building, the village will pay for the repair.

What happens if I’m ill or have a medical emergency?

Most villages have call systems installed in villas and apartments to provide a 24-hour monitoring service for medical emergencies. Staff who are trained in first aid as a minimum requirement will attend to the emergency.

Some villages also keep a confidential record of each resident’s medical history on file. This information including next of kin and Medicare details is released, with the authorisation of the resident, to medical services in an emergency.

Check to see what other health services are available, such as podiatry or physiotherapy.

How is the village managed?

Make sure the village is accredited and ask to see a copy of financial information relating to the operation of the retirement village. Find out what protection you have if the village is sold to another organisation.

Generally there is a residents’ committee and it’s handy to know what role it plays in the administration of the village. Also ask what arrangements are in place for the maintenance of units, community facilities and grounds.

Can I transfer to a serviced apartment?

If your needs change in the future and you need more support, you may need to move to a smaller serviced apartment. If these are available on site, it is important to know whether the village will facilitate this transfer. Usually it can be done subject to availability but do obtain clear information from management.

Some villages also offer aged care accommodation. Residents who are assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team as needing residential aged care may be able to move to care accommodation in the same village. Again this is usually subject to availability.

Be aware, however, you may need to make a separate accommodation payment if entering into residential care. Check that your entry contribution into the retirement village can be refunded quickly so that you can pay the accommodation payment.

Know your legalities

It may be advisable to inform your family, other loved ones or your executor of your Will as to the kind of contract you are signing and what exit fees will need to be paid. This will ensure there are no surprises when it comes to sorting your estate.

While you would hope you wouldn’t have to use it, ask what the complaints procedure is, what dispute resolution procedures are in place, and know your rights under your state or territory’s Retirement Villages Act.

Our section on Renting and Owning has links to the different state and territory Retirement Village Acts and also Retirement Village Resident Associations.

These Associations can help with a variety of issues from advocacy, legal aspects to promoting the rights of residents to all levels of government.

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