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Independent living in retirement communities

Community living with like minded people, who want to remain in living in their own home rather than entering a residential aged care facility.

Last updated: February 17th 2022
Many older people find freedom in their own unit or house but with the added safety and security of a retirement village. [Source: Shutterstock]

Many older people find freedom in their own unit or house but with the added safety and security of a retirement village. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • There are many benefits to moving into independent living
  • You have many different types of retirement villages to choose from
  • Retirement villages provide a range of lifestyle and village facilities
  • Many people look at retirement villages as a way to downsize

Benefits of independent living

For people with an active lifestyle this type of independent accommodation offers the freedom of living in their own unit or apartment, within the safety and security of a retirement community.

Independent living is buying or renting a home within a housing development inhabited by a senior community of like minded people, who want to remain in a home of their own rather than entering a residential aged care facility.

You don’t have to be retired to move into independent living, but you do have to be at least 55 years old.

Retirement villages - which type is right for you?

Options for independent living come in many shapes and sizes, from large communities with hundreds of villas to boutique sized villages with only a handful of units or retirement apartments in a ‘vertical village’.

The most common type of independent living is retirement villages. There are two types of retirement villages in Australia which you can either buy a house in or rent in.

Resident-funded villages are owned and operated by the private sector or a not-for-profit organisation to produce a profit or surplus and are funded through the payments or residents.

Donor-funded villages are usually owned and operated by not-for-profit organisations and entry is generally restricted to those who need it most.

There are also two types of retirement properties – villas and Independent Living Units (ILUs). These properties generally range from one bedroom to four and vary from high or medium-rise complexes to semi-detached buildings.

Each of these housing developments comes with not only an independent home for you to live in, but also a range of services and facilities you can access if you choose.

The benefits of a home in an independent living community relate to your ability to remain living in a full house, apartment or unit and keep your independence, but live in a safer environment than a regular house in the broader community.

Homes in retirement living complexes are usually better designed to support your mobility, with flat or ramped access, large doorways, grab rails in the bathroom and safe bench heights in the kitchen.

This safety is compounded by the security of living in the tight-knit community, which can be a gated community with onsite security and 24/ emergency call alarms to give you more peace of mind.

Retirement lifestyle and village facilities

Your lifestyle in retirement is an important part of the village which you might choose to live in, and the community’s services and facilities could be the kind of offerings you are looking for which are not as accessible in your current home.

Services in a village may include:

  • Garden maintenance
  • Home maintenance
  • Visiting professionals such as physiotherapists, podiatrists, or other allied health workers
  • Additional assistance with personal care, meals, laundry, and housework

The kinds of facilities which retirement villages may offer you access to include:

  • Swimming pool
  • Lawn bowls greens
  • Tennis courts
  • Golf course
  • Social or common areas, such as barbecue areas
  • Library or community centre
  • Entertainment rooms with billiards or table tennis
  • Rooms for hire for large family gatherings or celebratory events
  • Caravan or boat parking
  • Hairdresser
  • Beauty salon

There are no restrictions on coming and going from your village, in fact visiting local shops, cafes, restaurants and services is often encouraged by the close proximity of villages to important locations.

Many independent living options also give you the opportunity to continue to entertain friends and family, so you can still have a social lifestyle with people outside your retirement community as well.

Independent living options are ideal if you want to downsize and spend less time looking after your property, so that you can spend more time doing social activities or hobbies and just enjoying life.


Downsizing into a retirement village can also give you more time and ability to travel, as your home is more easily looked after while you are away.

The other reason which people downsize into a retirement village is to prepare them for the next stage of their aged care journey, which could be in supported living or residential aged care. Moving into independent living can be a good way to transition into receiving higher levels of care so that the change is not so daunting. And in some retirement villages you have the option to ‘age in place’ which means that you will be able to access additional care and support as you need, without having to move to an aged care home.

To find a retirement village near you search on the Aged Care Guide online directory. Searches can be viewed in lists or in a map format to help you visualise where the villages are located.

Or you can read more on our ‘Introduction to retirement villages‘ article.

Moving into a retirement village often takes some big financial decisions and planning for what your future costs may be. It’s important to get independent advice about the decision.

For expert advice on how to arrange your finances to access independent living options, call a financial advisor on 1300 863 216.

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