The ageing population is creating demand for retirement living and, by extension, the workers that support the sector. What constitutes a worker in this sector, however, is very broad as all types of skills are needed to run retirement villages.
The 2016 PwC and Property Council Retirement Census reveals the most common attributes of retirement villages are community centres (92 per cent), emergency call systems (91 per cent), organised community outings and activities (86 per cent), libraries (82 per cent), and visiting health professionals (78 per cent).
This means a need for workers ranging from fitness instructors and physiotherapists to librarians.
Stockland Retirement Living sales general manager Michael Wappett says the number of retirement villages has grown about 30 per cent in the past six years and there are now about 38,000 people employed in the sector, including in the construction and development of villages.
“First you’ve got the direct roles that work in the village, such as village managers, administrative staff, care workers, chefs, maintenance workers, gardeners, nurses, and lifestyle and wellbeing co-ordinators running the activities in the villages,” he says.
“Outside of that, we’ve got salespeople, legal administration people doing contracts, people in marketing and in development, and finance specialists like accountants. “There is a broad spectrum of roles within the industry.”
Wappett says people do not usually start out in the retirement living industry, with many coming through property sales, nursing or hotel work.
“We find (people with hotel experience) have that real great customer service focus and that is becoming more important in retirement living,” he says. “What we need to find is people who can balance the care side with commerciality.”
Cindy Hann’s full-time role at Stockland’s Hillsview Retirement Village is in administration but two days a week she leads a 45-minute aqua aerobics class with residents.
The classes came about after she recognised the movement difficulty some residents were having and the potential of aqua aerobics to build strength and flexibility with low impact on joints.
“Stockland renovated our indoor swimming pool to accommodate aqua aerobics and paid for me to complete a training course with AUSTSWIM, in order to take the classes,” Hann says. “Our residents are reporting improved health and overall wellbeing because of the exercise and socialisation.”
Hann, who previously worked as a barista and studied a Certificate IV in Community Services, says people considering the sector should have a caring and patient nature. “It’s not a sit-behind-the-desk job,” she says.