By Lesa Macpherson
As legal advisors specialising in assisting people into Retirement Villages we are often asked who we recommend, and what choice would be best for elder parents. We can’t answer that directly, firstly because that’s not our role, and secondly what is most suitable for one person or couple isn’t necessarily best for others.
Christmas/New Year is often a time when the assessment is made whether, and when, a move to a Retirement Village is desirable. The discussion can be prompted by the children judging that elderly parents are struggling a little in their current home, or by the parents themselves deciding that they want a simpler and less stressful lifestyle moving forward.
The Retirement industry is constantly being reviewed and improved. We have noticed that some of the operators who got bad press some years ago have clearly make significant efforts to deal with that criticism and improve their processes and offerings.
Legislative changes that were brought in during 2019 have ensured that all operators need to provide their information in a comprehensive and transparent way so that prospective purchasers better understand the buying choice they are making.
The industry is competitive, and we have seen that to “meet the market” operators are providing more varied options as to structuring of any purchase, as well as incentives on occasion, which ensure better choices for consumers.
Knowing the legal aspects are important, however, as professional advisors, as well as having elderly parents ourselves who have moved into Retirement Villages, and Aged Care, we can identify the sort of questions that should be asked, and issues to be considered, when making the Retirement Village decision, either for yourselves, or for aged parents.
The most important realisation we have come to is that the finances aren’t the be all and end all. The key is lifestyle. Is the lifestyle offered likely to be positive and beneficial?
Community is a vital criteria. Are activities, clubs, engagement available if you want them, but privacy and quiet if you don’t.
Can you maintain your own garden? Are pets allowed? What are the rules?
Maintaining the connection with loved ones is vital, so geography is an essential consideration.
The next move is also important. What happens after the independent living option in the Retirement Village? Where is the nearest Aged Care, and how is the transition handled?
One of the reasons people move into Retirement Villages is the security they offer compared to living elsewhere, or alone. How does the security, and support (if needed) measure up? When are Village staff on duty? How often is there a nurse on duty? Who responds to emergency call buttons? Are these even provided?
Understanding the financial aspects coming in, during, and at the end is important, but is only one of the important drivers.
A Retirement Village choice is a long term commitment and must not be rushed. The State Government in its Retirement Village Documentation strongly recommends obtaining Independent Legal Advice prior to signing a Retirement Village Contract. When entering into any contract for a Retirement Village Contract always use a lawyer with extensive experience in that area – not a generalist lawyer or conveyancer.