Retirement villages have been overlooked as a potential model of care for Australians, proponents say, amid a government focus on home care.
Executive director of the Property Council of Australia’s Retirement Living, Ben Myers, said the sector could play a key role in providing a range of lifestyle options for people to age in place.
He said the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report focus on home modification had not recognised the role retirement living played in the broader care spectrum.
“The [final] report continues a kind of thinking that ageing at home is about staying in a family house in the suburbs as opposed to the very different types of homes that people can choose to live in,” he told Inside Ageing.
“It doesn’t even really acknowledge what many call down-sizing, but could be called right-sizing. The report goes into recommendations for home modification.
The royal commission’s final report recommended specific funding for assistive technology and home modifications to promote independence in daily living tasks and reduces risk to living at home safely. It made no recommendations in relation to retirement living.
It followed the Australian Government’s additional $1 billion in home care funding, for all services, last December.
Expanding individual services delivered to the home is also tipped to be a significant element of the Budget response to the final report in May.
My Myers said there were many advantages – both economically and socially – in a model of care within age-friendly accommodation, such as retirement villages.
“The really important role played by age-friendly housing has been completely overlooked”, he said.
“Purpose-built housing for older people has benefits over and above home modifications. It would be an absolute pity to overlook age-friendly housing, ‘We won’t give you any support, but we’ll give you money to stay in your house’.”
The retirement living industry points to the community benefits of community living, with its increased social engagement levels.
“People can live independently but have a much better outcome in terms of social engagement,” he said.
“There’s evidence to show that retirement village residents visit the doctor less, and have fewer and shorter hospital stays.”
In this, industry representatives have said retirement living follows the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly Practices to promote health and maintain physical and mental capacity throughout a life, and enabling people even when experiencing capacity loss.
“This is about ensuring people can live independently and if they want to access care, it’s readily available,” he said.
The WHO’s age-friendly environments promote housing and neighbourhoods “free from physical and social barriers and supported by policies, systems, services, products and technologies” to enable older people.
They said the promote older people’s inclusion in and contribution, as well as reducing inequities.