Article written by Noel Whittaker - Finance Expert and Author
Downsizing from the beloved family home is a major step for older Australians. The decision to move can be difficult enough, but choosing where to go is even harder. There is a bewildering array of choices, and most people are just guessing at the advantages and disadvantages of any choice they make.
Let’s take a step back and think about what the last decades of life may look like. Most retirees today are seeking a happy and healthy retirement; many will live past 90. Age itself is not a disease, and there is a wealth of research available that shows most people have more control than they think over their health and happiness in their later years. Nonetheless, most people may need assistance as they age. Furthermore, in the case of a couple, it’s likely that one will predecease the other.
David Williams, founder of My Longevity, uses the acronym SHAPE to enable people to estimate how long they may live. The letters stand for Surroundings, Health, Attitude, Parents and Eating habits. His theory makes sense – a person who lives in a good environment, who is healthy, has a good attitude, is blessed with good genes, and eats well, should in all probability live longer than a person who enjoys none of these advantages.
His website, My Longevity, provides a free SHAPE Analyser that lets anybody over 44 take an easy five-minute quiz to calculate their own life expectancy. It even gives suggestions for how to live a longer and healthier life than the initial quiz response might indicate.
Similarly, the Blue Zones website offers simple, proven strategies for long and healthy living. Founder Dan Buettner based these on the practices from areas in the world where people live, on average, longer, happier and healthier lives – the blue zones. In a nutshell, the keys are regular exercise, a good attitude, the right diet, and being part of a community.
Australians’ two favourite downsizing choices are a strata title apartment, or a place in a retirement village. If we think about the blue zone keys mentioned above, it becomes obvious that for most people a retirement village should be the best choice. A sense of community is vital for healthy ageing, yet many people who move into a strata title unit find themselves lonely. If you don’t meet your neighbours in the lift, you may not meet them until you are in the middle of an argument at a body corporate meeting.
Contrast this with a retirement village, where the entire culture is structured around engagement and community. In the good villages there are activities such as group exercise, various social outings, and a wide range of healthy meals available. Furthermore, if one partner does pass away, the survivor has the support of many other members of the retirement village. If they had chosen the strata title option they could well find themselves really isolated.
The major criteria for anybody considering a move to a retirement village should be the factors mentioned above. Ask yourself if the village managers encourage the residents to mix with each other. Are there sporting facilities on-site? If not, are residents encouraged to take part in activities off-site? Does the village have a good look and feel? Your surroundings are important: the more attractive the landscaping the better your health is likely to be. What is the situation regarding meals – if you don’t feel like cooking yourself does the village have facilities where you could buy healthy meals at a reasonable cost?
Most good retirement villages have a central meeting point where residents can meet and socialise over coffee or a glass of wine. Residents tell me that socialising with their neighbours in this way is one of the highlights of their day.
Obviously, the ongoing costs, and the rules and regulations of the village, are important. You will need to understand what costs and rules apply if for some reason you need to go to different accommodation, but on the whole, retirement villages have a lot to offer most retirees.
Noel Whittaker AM CTA FCPA is one of Australia’s leading authorities on personal finance. He has been a weekly contributor to the finance pages of some of Australia’s leading newspapers for more than 30 years and has written 22 books on personal finance. In 2011, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services in education on financial literacy.
Stockland commissioned the Author to compose this article for publication by Stockland for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the topic, and not to provide specific advice for your specific circumstances. Stockland recommends you seek independent legal and financial advice before making any decision. The views, information, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the Author, and are not necessarily held by Stockland.
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