Location, location, location.
We’ve all heard this catchcry from real estate agents, but location is essential in the housing considerations of people over 65.
This group within our community needs greater access to transport and services, has more time for leisure and community activities, and has less need for large houses with numerous bedrooms, parents’ retreats and three car garages.
And yet, despite large segments of Canberra’s ageing population wanting to stay in the communities in which they’ve happily lived for decades, we are increasingly seeing people 65 and over pushed to developments on the urban fringes with less developed support infrastructure that doesn’t fit their needs.
Retirement villages offer an ideal solution, providing a number of substantial economic and social benefits. Thoughtfully-located facilities in existing suburbs can offer older Canberrans the opportunity to ‘age in place’ in their own community, while vacating larger homes to enable demand to better match supply.
Canberra is currently home to around 30 retirement villages – but the pipeline of development will not meet the expected future demand. The ACT Government will need to adjust its land release program to accommodate retirement villages.
While retirement living developments will play an important role in our future housing options for this growing demographic, this is not the only solution. Just 4.7 per cent of Canberrans over 65 live in a retirement village (compared with 5 per cent across all capital cities). More retirement living choice will boost this figure – but many Canberrans still prefer independent living.
As the conversation around raising the retirement age continues, in a city of highly-educated, white collar workers, many over 65s will be keen to remain in employment for longer. Apartment living in the city is likely to increasingly appeal to semi-retirees wanting access to lifestyle, part-time employment and services in a more compact, connected community than the one they enjoyed when they had a house full of children in the suburbs.
Our challenge is to create communities where older people want to be. This means engaging in an ongoing conversation about how we build a city for this growing group of our citizens. It means considering the over 65s in our master planning. And it means creating communities where opportunities for connection, engagement and empowerment abound.
Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia