Retirement Living Census

Retirement living is not for the rich.  Instead, it provides affordable housing for pensioners, particularly single women.

This is the biggest takeaway from a new national census of the retirement village sector, which finds the average two-bedroom retirement village dwelling costs $385,000 – 68 per cent of the cost of the national median house price and well below Canberra’s $616,000.

According to the 2015 PwC Property Council Retirement Census, two thirds of all village residents are female, the average age of residents is 81 and the average length of stay is seven years.

Retirement communities are growing in popularity because they are cheaper than median priced homes in the same area, and enable older Australians to unlock home equity and live comfortably in houses designed to support physical independence and social interaction.

Tellingly, the 2,300 retirement villages around the country have an average occupancy rate of 91 per cent.

By 2023, 15 per cent of Canberra’s population will be over 65. This will swell to 22.5 per cent by 2060. While we have a growing number of retirement living village in Canberra, the pipeline of developments will simply not meet demand.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that most older people want to ‘age in place’. They want to remain connected with their community and the services with which they are familiar - but they don’t necessarily want to remain in the family home.

In fact, research tells us that 84 per cent of those who want to downsize wish to stay in their suburb. Despite this, retirement living developments are frequently found at fringes of our cities. This can leave older people with no choice but to remain in houses that are far too big. 

When we think of ‘growing older’ we tend to focus on health and social care issues – but the property and construction industry has a central role to play in building a city that promotes active and inclusive ageing.

On Thursday 27 August, the Property Council will host a retirement living forum and invites every Canberran with an interest in building an age-friendly city.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia