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Retirement Planning

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Independent living in retirement communities

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.

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 you 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.

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 house work

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 our online guide here. 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 about retirement villages here.

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.

Independent living in retirement communities

Serviced apartments or assisted living

Serviced apartments are a combination between retirement living and an aged care facility, where you can live independently with access to various levels of care and assistance.

This type of accommodation is also referred to as supported or assisted living.

Residents of serviced apartments are generally mobile and independent but require some help with some - but not all - daily living activities. In a serviced apartment you benefit from being part of a retirement community, just as you would in a retirement village, but the apartment will have even less maintenance and there is more of an opportunity to receive higher levels of care in your apartment.

Services and facilities which may be offered to residents of assisted living include:

  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Assistance with personal care
  • Nursing care
  • Group exercise classes
  • Visiting allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and podiatrists
  • Hobby and interest groups such as knitting, craft or card games
  • Entertainment shows by visiting groups
  • Social events such as morning teas
  • Social events to bring family along to
  • Outdoor or indoor lawn bowls
  • Table tennis
  • Swimming pool, as well as hydrotherapy or aqua aerobics sessions

In most serviced facilities your main meal of the day will be provided and you will have more of a kitchenette in your apartment, rather than a full kitchen. The daily meal will likely be served in a dining room shared by your community.

Your provider may also have a breakfast and lunch service and each of the meals will have a menu arranged by a chef, with several choices for each meal. The meal service can be particularly beneficial if you can’t or don’t want to do your own nutrition, food shopping and meal preparation, and is a benefit of assisted living which is not regularly offered in retirement villages.

Many serviced apartments have more scheduled group activities and outings than retirement villages, for example shopping trips or bus trips with other residents.

If you are eligible for a government funded Home Care Package you will be able to receive this care while living in a serviced apartment, as the provider is not classed as residential aged care but operated more like a retirement village.

The level of security in a serviced apartment is also very high, giving you and your family peace of mind. There is also safety in the number of staff who can respond to an emergency call if you have medical concerns and the apartments are designed to support mobility with no trip hazards, wider doorways and the possibility of grab rails in the bathroom.

If you are looking for an accommodation option which supports ageing in place then assisted living is ideal as you can start with a low level of services and more independent living, then build up your care as your needs increase, all while living in the same apartment and maintaining as much independence as possible.

Serviced apartments are usually only available in cities as they are a high density housing development, so are not available in as wide a variety of locations across Australia as retirement villages are. However, some major regional centres may also have assisted living options.

You can search for serviced apartments near you here.

There will be costs involved with serviced apartments, just as with any type of retirement living or aged care. Most serviced apartments are cheaper to enter than retirement villages, as the home you move into is smaller, however other cost factors will depend on the location and style of apartment you want, the types of services you would like to use and the level of care you need.

Unlike retirement villages, all serviced apartments operate with rental lease type arrangements and you cannot buy an apartment outright. To enter into the assisted living development you pay a lump sum deposit and there may also be a fee charged when you leave the accommodation, as well as weekly fees for services.

For independent advice on the costs of assisted living call a financial advisor on 1300 863 216.

Serviced apartments or assisted living

Information guides

Read more about retirement living and what to consider when you're thinking about moving into a retirement village.

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