So you think a retirement village is a place you go to relax, catch up on all those years of lost sleep while you raised a family or pursued your career. Well think again! The modern Village of today is a dynamic, state-of-the-art, facility bearing all the hallmarks of a 5-star resort.

Retirement villages come in many forms and guises, from independent living communities, which offer no personal care services to assisted living communities offering extensive ongoing health and other support.

Villages are ever-changing and responding to the needs of different generations with some major trends influencing the design and services.

A 2013 village census revealed today’s village residents are younger than their years would suggest. They’re living longer, active later, using technology more and even working later in life than previous generations of retirees. More than 1 in 7 of the retirement village age group are still in paid employment and based on these trends we will see increasing numbers of retirement village residents who are not in fact retired.

Owner of the award-winning Arbour Berry retirement village in Berry on the NSW South Coast, John Leo concurs that this ‘generational change’ is the biggest trend affecting retirement villages.

He describes a two-tiered system of villages catering to older residents with greater health needs and Baby Boomers demanding higher quality low maintenance living.

“Baby Boomers are much more demanding than the ‘depression children’ were,” he says.

He says older villages now have the challenge of having to seriously upgrade due to demand for a higher standard of village. The Arbour is made up of 113 dwellings set on 24 acres of land and the homes open out onto the acreage vista allowing for greater privacy and a sense of space.

“Other villages tend to be denser, but our sales rates have been quite consistent,” he says.

“At the Arbour our homes have a lot more in them. They are at least 3-bedrooms, with large private courtyards, all set on 24 acres. The standards, finishings and quality have definitely gone up.”

Another major trend emerging in retirement village living is the ‘green village’. Developers are considering sustainability in the design and construction of villages.

Earlier this year Stockland’s Selandra Rise Retirement Village in Cranbourne, Victoria took out a Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) 4-Star Green Star Certification.

The company considered energy, water, waste materials, transport options and the planting of trees that provide summer shade and allow winter sun. There was practical and effective use of open space and residents’ proximity to shops, medical facilities, bus and rail transport. It all combines to reduce the cost of living and lower energy and water bills.

Specific features that helped Stockland achieve the Green rating for Selandra included:

  • Highly efficient air conditioning systems
  • High-performance glass to maintain constant temperatures
  • Use of natural gas for cooking and hot water
  • Efficient lighting such as energy-efficient LED lighting and better access to natural sunlight
  • Efficient taps and other water fittings
  • Recycled water for toilets and gardens
  • Home energy meters that help residents understand how much energy they’re using
  • High availability of greener travel and public transport options
  • Use of construction materials with lower environmental impacts.

 “We’re always seeking new opportunities to improve our sustainability management, performance and disclosure… through the development of the first Green Star rated retirement living village at Selandra Rise in Victoria,” Ramana James, National Sustainability Manager at Stockland said.

Mr Leo also suggests a big trend which dominates discussion at all industry conferences is the extension of traditional home care, offering more services by partnering with other providers.

“Villages are well placed to do this as they are able to bundle up and deliver services for residents.”

“That’s how they are going to increase value, by partnering to bring more services into the homes. Villages will have to respond to that,” he says.

“Retirement villages are not nursing homes and people get them very confused. It’s independent living, it’s there to free you up,” Mr Leo says.

Statistics that will help drive trends in retirement villages in the future

  • Residents in villages with a younger demographic indicated that lifestyle features such bowling greens and caravan/boat parking were highly desirable and a key contributing factor to their choice of village.
  • Future generations of retirement village consumers will place a high priority on their privacy and personal space. The resident’s sanctuary should have provision for extended family visits, storage, entertainment and solitude (particularly for couples!).
  • It is important to provide a variety of accommodation offerings given that the relative mix of singles, couples, wealth and age groups will impact upon preferences for unit styles, sizes and amenities.
  • Research demonstrates substantial benefits for nursing homes located within retirement villages
  • The provision of care services can help sustain demand levels and promote greater occupancy rates for village units.

Source: A Retirement Living Report  - Grant Thornton 2011