Are you trying to decide where to live during retirement? According to the Property Council of Australia, 7.5% of Australians older than 65 years will likely be living in retirement housing by 2025. Many people seeking to re-organise their lifestyle when they retire find an appeal in senior independent living options like active retirement communities. But is this the right choice for you?
It’s definitely an important decision. You’ll need to think carefully about what your ideal retirement lifestyle looks like. In this article, we explore the pros and cons of retirement village living to help you make a balanced decision.
What Are The Benefits Of Living In A Retirement Community?
#1 Independence For Longer
Moving into retirement living has been shown to increase the length of time residents remain physically and mentally independent. According to a 2014 report from the Property Council of Australia, residents in retirement villages typically move into an aged care facility five years later than people who enter straight from a family home — meaning people living in retirement villages enjoy greater flexibility and autonomous decision-making for longer. Living in a retirement village gives elderly people a stronger sense of emotional empowerment by providing opportunities to connect meaningfully with others and enjoy a relaxed lifestyle.
#2 Connection and Community
Research shows the physical, mental and emotional benefits of staying socially engaged in your senior years are huge. While our social capital — the networks of relationships that give humans purpose through emotional connection and participation — have massive health benefits for people of every age, this is especially true for seniors. Socially active seniors tend to live longer, enjoy stronger immune systems, and have a lower risk of dementia. As we inevitably face the challenges in life that come with growing older, it becomes even more important to maintain daily social interaction and connections to support our positive mental and physical health.
Moving to a retirement community makes it easier for people who feel socially isolated and ‘out of touch’ to make friends and connect meaningfully with people who share similar interests. Look closely at the classes and entertainment on offer at the retirement community you are looking at — do they have game nights? Fitness classes? Social outings? Do the events on offer appeal to you? Remember, it’s completely up to you how involved you want to be in the social activities of the community. Your privacy will always be respected. But it’s important to choose a retirement community that will suit your desired lifestyle and provide plenty of opportunities to enrich your life with social connections.
Unfortunately, maintaining a house can become more difficult, dangerous and stressful as you get older. Downsizing to a smaller place where you don’t need to perform this time-consuming maintenance is a natural decision if you’re feeling overwhelmed. People in retirement communities live without the stress of home and yard maintenance since these are often taken care of by the staff at the retirement community. In addition, retirement homes often come equipped with hand railings, non-slip mats and motion-sensor alarm systems to make life as an elderly person easier.
Retirement communities offer a variety of options to suit your desired lifestyle. Independent living units, also called villas, are designed for people who require little to no assistance with daily activities. However, if you need some support in everyday activities, such as help with preparing meals, doing laundry or cleaning, but can function well for most tasks, it may be worth looking into an assisted living unit in a retirement community. Many retirement communities offer assisted living services and personal care. If you experience an unexpected change in health and discover you need a higher level of care, a retirement village with an assisted living service will likely be able to accommodate you. You’ll be able to stay with the friends you’ve made and the staff you’ve become comfortable with.
Good retirement villages offer strong safety, both in terms of health and physical security. Seniors living in a retirement village have quick and easy access to help in an emergency, such as a fall or an accident. Many retirement communities have medically-trained staff, such as aged care providers and health professionals, available and on call at any time, leading to regular health checks for residents, fewer and shorter hospital visits.
Many retirement communities are protected with gates and at night, security guards. Whether you’d like to go away for a weekend or take an extended holiday, you can rest assured your home will be completely undisturbed and safe while you’re away.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Living In A Retirement Community
It’s best to go over your contract with a fine-toothed comb and the assistance of a legal professional. While most retirement community contracts are fair, some are complex and include unexpected fees. Always seek professional advice before signing anything so you’re 100% sure it’s a good fit for you and your situation.
Like contracts, fees in retirement communities can be fair, but some are excessive. When comparing fees, it’s important to look at what you’ll pay up front, as an ongoing contribution, and when your home is sold.
Final Thoughts: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Retirement Village Living
Since each person’s situation is unique, only you’ll know what’s right for you. It’s important to think about your preferences now, decide on a plan and share it with loved ones so everyone is on the same page.
Living in a retirement community comes with many benefits, including longer independence, connection and community, convenience and flexibility, enhanced safety and security, and better access to health services. However, before committing to a retirement village, it’s best to assess the contract and fees critically.
References and Additional Resources
- Property Council of Australia. (2014). National Overview of the Retirement Village Sector.
- Yang YC, Boen C, Gerken K, et al. (2016). Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 113, no. 3, pp. 578–583.
- Australian Government. (2018). Resources for Older Australians.
- Aged and Community Services Australia. (2015). Social Isolation and Loneliness Among Older Australians. Issues paper no. 1.
- Lunsford, B. K. & Janes, D. (2015). Engaging older adults to build social capital. GSTF Journal of Nursing and Health Care, 2.