Why we support retirement villages

I am often asked, why do I promote retirement villages and what’s in it for me?

Up until 2006 our business was publishing and we specialised in residential real estate. But several clients and friends asked me to look at retirement villages, saying they offer a great service but very few people understand what they do.

In truth, it didn’t sound very exciting to me. In fact, I immediately thought villages were dark places hidden behind big walls where old people live. But then I did some research, and I found the exact opposite. Villages are in fact vibrant communities that deliver a unique service to ageing Australians.

And this all got me thinking about our society and how we treat our seniors. I must admit it’s become a bit of a passion for me.

My wife also works in aged care plus my Mum has succumbed to dementia, so we talk most nights about how the elderly are treated in our community – and it’s not always ideal. In fact, for many many older Australians life is just not great.

For instance, one statistic I learnt early on is that 50% of all people aged over 70 are clinically depressed. This is a tragic figure. The main cause is isolation and loneliness, often combined with financial pressures. Many people simply do not have enough money to live on. Not a great way to start each day, and is this what we want for our mums and dads?

So I began interviewing village residents and I found by comparison that nearly all of them are content. By living in a village community they avoid suffering from isolation and most don’t have money worries.

This contentment is backed up by multiple research projects that show satisfaction rates in villages exceed 90%. Our own research of nearly 11,000 real residents across Australia found a 97% satisfaction rate – which is remarkable - I don’t know of any other product or service that could match it.

And by the way, the entry price of a village I found is not the important thing – $100,000 villages are the same as $1 million villages, delivering the same sense of physical and emotional security, as well as the dignity of being part of a community – and what value can you place on that?

Of course it is important not to look through rose coloured glasses. Villages are not for everyone, and I can’t say every village is perfect – in fact some are not great, for their own particular reasons.

Operators can be greedy or difficult and sometimes it’s because there are one or two residents that are not easy to get on with. If you live in an apartment building you may have experienced such troubles, but most villages have a residents committee and my advice is to always have a ‘one to one’ chat with them before you commit. Also have an experienced lawyer check over documentation and make sure your family understands the contract structure.

So what’s in it for me to promote villages and would I join one? Well, if we can assist ageing Australians find contentment and not fall in to that 50% who suffer depression, then that seems pretty good to me. And yes, I will join a village in the next 10 years or so. Because I too want to age well.

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The Donaldson Sisters present important topics and perspectives on the table for open discussion – topics that don’t often get raised in the mainstream media and voices and perspectives less frequently heard. Subscribe to their newsletter here.