There comes a time in everyone's life when enjoying a comfortable retirement is top of the priority list. You might want to swap the big family home for something a little more manageable, but you should also give some thought to how you can adapt your home to your future needs.

A few simple adjustments can be all it takes! Here are a few tips to get your house ready for retirement and some tips on what to look for in a new property, if you’re planning on moving into something smaller.

Ready and steady

When you're buying a home to spend your retired years in, imagine yourself using the property in day-to-day life. Consider the entrances to your home. During your property search, have a think about how many stairs there are. Single storey homes or units are much more practical than a few too many tricky steps. You might need to install handrails along high steps and stairwells at some point, or chat with a builder or engineer about making the house more accessible with ramps.

If you become interested in a double story home, it’s best if there is at least one bedroom and a bathroom on the lower level. Door frames are also something to keep in mind – can they be widened to fit wheelchairs and walking frames? There might even be a number of grants for seniors if you want to do some minor renovations so check with the local government to see what you can get help with.

How important are bathrooms?

Bathrooms are one of the first things people look at in a home, but they can be especially important when you're a bit older. Think about the floor finish. A hardwood floor or tiles may look beautiful in the bathroom now, but it can actually be a hazard when balance doesn't come easily. While there are some simple non-slip mats that you can lay in the shower area to prevent falls, think about whether the bathroom is big enough to install handrails or a shower chair.


Families might look for schools and parks, but retirees might need a home that's close to a medical centre and shops. Investigate how accessible public transport is from the property, should you become less able to drive. You might also want something a little closer to friends and family – and social activities! Retirement village vs retirement home Most retirees consider moving to a retirement village or retirement home if the gardening, housework and maintenance has become more than can be easily managed. If you think you’ve reached that point, make sure you’ve considered alternatives like local community home help, a handyman or moving to a smaller nearby apartment first.

Five other common reasons to move could be:

  1. You’ve lost your partner or spouse and have allowed yourself adequate time to adjust before making such an important decision 
  2. You believe the social or religious activities available in a village would appeal to you
  3. You can see the time approaching where level access, doorways that can easily fit wheelchairs, and other support would be handy
  4. You’d feel more relaxed knowing emergency assistance is readily available
  5. You feel you’d appreciate being part of a village community and the social interaction it offers

What about costs?

There are many different types of retirement villages and retirement homes and the financial implications of your choice can be complex. It is important you have sought the advice of a solicitor, lawyer or financial advisor and you fully understand the costs of entry, residency, exit and who pays what bills. There is usually an initial entry price, recurring service charges and a departure charge when you leave, plus, there are a great many departure fee structures so it’s vital that the structure you are considering is explained to you.

Ask the village you are considering for comprehensive information about its fees and charges then seek professional advice. Most retirement villages and retirement homes charge an entry contribution of some sort and this usually goes toward ongoing updates to the common property and individual homes/units. If you have limited funds, some villages may offer an apartment and negotiate a small donation of several thousand dollars.

Will my pension be affected?

A complex range of factors affects your pension so it’s important to speak to the Centrelink – Department of Human Services for detailed advice. It’s possible your pension and/or rent assistance situation might be affected but Centrelink will assess any entry costs you may incur.

There are enough personal decisions to make when it comes to deciding how to adapt your property or what your next property should be but, ideally, consider consulting a financial planner before you make any major changes. Once you’ve weighed your options, and you’re across all the practical considerations, then you can confidently determine what’s best for you.

Are you considering adapting your home; downsize to something more manageable, or looking more closely at retirement village options? Join the conversation below.