Seven key shifts in the retirement living sector

Australians are changing how they retire – and so the retirement living sector must change as well. But rather than a seismic shift (such as Uber’s influence on the transport industry) the disruptions to retirement living are more complex. These shifts will provide huge opportunities to players in this sector who are willing to innovate and adapt – and risks to those who don’t.

Shifts in care facilitation and delivery

The deregulation of the care system is allowing consumers to choose their own lifestyle support services. The most noticeable impact of this is the rise of ‘ageing in place’. Rather than forcing residents to move to fit escalating services, there is an increasing focus on innovation which allows those services to be scaled up as needed, allowing residents to remain within the communities they love and access varied levels of support. Developments can take advantage of this by tailoring products specific to the idea of layered support services within a residential environment.

Shift in lifestyle expectations 

Ageing Australians want (and have the means) to continue to live the lifestyle they are accustomed to. While the convenience of a concentrated and downsized living space is obvious, being able to continue their hobbies and pursuits requires development offerings to go beyond what seniors can access in regular residential developments, and be customised to specific markets and cultural groups.

Shift in working patterns

Australians are working longer and embracing more flexible working practices as they age. People are reaching retirement age and are not only capable of continuing to work, but are accustomed to contributing to the workforce. The percentage of people 60 and older looking for work is rising.  Flexible working environments will further enhance their ability to contribute and to continue working, and developments will need to accommodate their agile working lives with study areas or business centres. 

Shift in health philosophy

As people are feeling healthier and living and working longer, developments need to appeal to this through additional offerings and endeavours. An elegant example of this is designing building services such as fire escape stairs to be attractive, useable spaces, encouraging residents to access and use them to stay fit and exercise. Retirement living developments will need to rethink their offerings to continue to appeal to ageing Australians, by taking note of what their target markets are partaking in regularly to continue to feel their best. Lawn bowls just won’t cut it these days.

Shift in attitudes towards higher density living

Ageing Australians are increasingly valuing location, convenience and free time over the established cultural cache of the quarter acre block. Higher density living is becoming more and more attractive to retirees and downsizers, as attitudes towards higher density living continue to improve. Retirement living providers need to capitalise on this by offering innovative higher density developments which capture the community aspects of a village environment in a new way, whilst still providing the same homely serenity once they walk in their front door.

Shift in technology

Breakthroughs in medical and wearable technology have the capacity to fundamentally shift how we think about retirement living developments. Exoskeletons could replace handrails and wheelchairs, smartwatches have the ability to monitor heart rate and blood pressure. Sector operators need to be prepared to take support out of the built environment and integrate it more closely with their residents.

Shift to emphasise quality of life  

Quality of life must be at the core of retirement living developments. Retirees are active, healthy, and engaged members of their community. Treating residents like patients turns them into patients, and there’s no reason why living longer means we need to compromise our quality of life. Living better and living longer go hand in hand.

This article was written by Nick Antoniou, Sector Leader, Seniors Living at Plus Architecture, a sponsor of the National Retirement Living Summit 2017. Plus Architecture is an award-winning integrated Architecture and Interior Design practice, founded in 1997. With studios in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Christchurch, Auckland and Perth, the team's capabilities extend to multi-residential, master-planned, commercial, seniors living and mixed use developments.