Future retirees not so retiring

A MAJOR image revamp is in the works for the retirement village industry as developers and real estate agents try to dispel traditional stigmas of “old people’s homes”.

A general lowering of the retirement age, plus the fact that the over-55 age group is growing at a faster rate than any other, means the market, and demand, for retirement villages is rapidly increasing.

But the rise in demand does not necessarily guarantee success for the plethora of retirement village developments springing up across the State, according to Retirement Village Association vice-president Ray Fitzgerald.

“You can’t just say to the market, ‘this is where you should be living’,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“There have been a couple of developers who have done that, and they have built the units too small or something like that, and then their development simply has not been accepted.”

The $20 million St Quentins retirement village is one development that has not enjoyed the instant popularity other villages around the State have experienced.

The 54-apartment development has been withdrawn from the market after failing to raise the interest of the Swanbourne aged community, and owner Arton Retirement Villages now is considering options for the development.

Arton manager Paul Vrisakis said the Swanbourne project was not a true reflection of the retirement village market, which was strong and growing at a rapid rate.

Mr Fitzgerald said retirees were becoming more discerning about where and how they wanted to spend their retirement years. Most did not want to compromise on their present standard of living, he said.

For developers that means investing more in facilities and building bigger retirement units than in the past, and making every effort to dispel the less-than-glamorous images often associated with retirement homes.

“There is not the stigma attached to retirement villages that there was 15 to 20 years ago, but we still have to convince people that we are not building old people’s homes,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“Retirees today are wanting bigger and better units, plus lots of facilities, including those which are tied up with education.”

Seniors Own Real Estate managing director Mike Graebner agreed, and expected the standards of retirement villages to increase.

“Retirees are expecting a lot more and they certainly don’t want to take a step back in their lifestyles,” Mr Graebner said.

“The new villages will become more sophisticated, the homes will be much more spacious with a high level of finish and there will be more double garages.

“However, it is also important that the homes remain affordable because retirees don’t want to spend more than what their existing house is worth and they would probably like some change.”

He said the most popular price bracket was between $150,000 and $225,000.

On top of a high quality of houses and amenities, developers also had to focus on creating a welcoming village culture to ensure a successful development, Mr Graebner said.

Thus, social facilities and clubs also must be considered as part of the development.

And more than leaving an old home, the next generation of cashed-up retirees was likely to spend their dollars on new homes, according to Real Estate Institute of WA public affairs director Lino Iacomella.

“The next generation of retirees is going to have an active retirement, which means they will be travelling, taking on further education and building their own homes,” Mr Iacomella said.

“People in their 60s now are borrowing money to build their new dream home for their retirement years, which is not typical of previous generations.”

Mr Fitzgerald said that only between 3 per cent and four per cent of older Western Australians lived in retirement villages.

“In the eastern states it is more like seven per cent and in the US it is about 12 per cent,” he said.


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