Living the good life, longer

Good health and wellbeing is the key to a long and happy life. It is a critical issue, not just for our residents, but for everyone as they enter their retirement years.

This is why operators and developers of retirement villages need to think carefully about the quality and type of facilities they provide. We are spending more time and more money ensuring that we build the right facilities in the right locations. Increasingly, we are looking to co-locate our villages with healthcare, medical centres and aged care facilities.

It’s not just about the hard infrastructure. It's also about how residents can access the services they want and need, and this may well be different for each person. We're also conducting various state pilots and rolling out multiple programs, nationally, to improve and sustain the health and vitality of our residents so they can enjoy their retirement for longer.

Within our $5 billion Oceanside Health Precinct at Kawana on the Sunshine Coast, we identified a unique opportunity to build our first ever greenfield, vertical retirement village.

By the time of its completion in early 2018, Oceanside Retirement Village (artist's impression below) will offer residents all of the benefits of Sunshine Coast living with easy access to restaurants, cafes, the beach, lakefront walking paths and everything the nearby retail and business centres of Mooloolaba and Maroochydore have to offer.

Importantly, the 140-apartment vertical village is located within easy walking distance of world-class health facilities, including the Sunshine Coast Public Hospital, the Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital and the Sunshine Coast Health Institute.

The village is also conveniently positioned adjacent to a new 151-bed Opal Aged Care facility, which will be ready for occupation in early 2017. This provides residents with a long-term continuum of care, if and when their needs change in the future. This also allows a couple to remain close where one needs to live in an aged care facility and one does not. 

By 2056, a quarter of our population will be over the age of 65. Most of us will not only see but experience this remarkable demographic shift in our lifetimes – so we're actively planning, designing and developing new communities across Australia with this demographic shift in mind.

We're designing and developing based on an assumption that older Australians will increasingly want to downsize and move into connected communities with centralised healthcare and lifestyle services.

For example, at our award-winning Highlands community at Craigieburn in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, local residents will soon have easy access to a new state of the art facility right on their doorstep, with construction underway on a $6 million medical facility to be built within our master-planned community. It sounds simple, but this is the first medical centre facility we've purpose-built within one of our communities – and there will be more to come.

Highlands is one of Australia’s fastest growing communities, and the new facility will ensure 12,000 surrounding residents will have greater access to local health and wellbeing services. For the convenience of retirement living residents, in particular, the new medical centre is being built adjacent to the Highlands Retirement Village.

Scheduled to open in mid-2017 to all members of the community, the medical centre will include General Practitioners, a pharmacy, dentists, radiology, physiotherapy, pathology and diagnostic imaging services.

This development is in line with our core strategy of providing excellent outcomes for residents in our communities and delivering convenient services close to home.

In addition to our direct capital investment in healthcare and adjacent housing, we’re also incorporating more 'softer services' to improve the health and wellbeing of our residents.

At the majority of our villages, we have dedicated Health and Wellness Coordinators, who have the wonderful job of looking for new ways to create 'a better way to live'. And, as a result, there are many instances where our village residents are more active now than they were 20 years ago.

Our research tells us that seniors who move into a retirement village tend to live independently longer, eventually entering aged care on average five years later than 'empty nesters' who stay in their family home.

Research also shows that regular physical activity for retirees is the key to maintaining good health and vitality and one of the most effective ways to improve emotional wellbeing.

We want to encourage our residents to get involved, keep fit, stay connected and be a part of something they can enjoy in a group.

However, recent research from the ABS shows people aged 65 and over have the lowest participation rate in physical activity, nationally, at 47 per cent, and the lowest rate of involvement in organised sport, at 17 per cent.

In 2015, we formed a partnership with Bowls Australia. Together, we're encouraging residents to participate in social and competitive lawn bowls, coaching clinics, and free health and wellbeing seminars. Once again, the partnership is all about encouraging happier, healthier, more active residents at all of our villages.

Earlier this year, we launched an Australian first health initiative connecting the residents of ten of our South Australian villages with a range of trusted health professionals. The Benefits+ Health program connects these valued health partners with residents to encourage greater social connection and to address the key health matters of residents.

Each month one or more health partners will visit each village to have a 'healthy conversation' through a free monthly interactive session about a particular health focus. The monthly sessions are open to all of our retirement village residents, their carers, families and friends.

So what do we hope to achieve through all of our health and wellbeing investments and programs?

The guiding principle for everything we do at Stockland is to create a better way to live. And as the old adage goes, 'if you don’t have your health, you don’t have much at all' - so we're doing everything we can, and will continue to do so, to create Australia's healthiest, happiest retirement villages and communities.

This article was written by Stephen Bull, CEO Retirement Living at Stockland, the principal sponsor of the National Retirement Living Summit 2016. Save the date for the National Retirement Living Summit 2017 - Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 November on the Gold Coast.