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Are small-scale retirement developments a viable option?

By Fish Hoek Elder Care

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Retirement is the new buzzword in the residential development market, but building a retirement village is an enormous undertaking with huge implications – it’s a much bigger deal than building a golf or eco estate. So, is there room for small investors to cash in on this profitable sector?

Perhaps there is. We recently found an interesting retirement facility that shows some clever out-of-the-box thinking.

Elephant number 1

While some people choose to stay in the homes they’ve always lived in, and age in place, most people choose to downsize in some way – to decrease the hassle and expense of maintaining a big home, to have more freedom, and fewer responsibilities. But the one thing most people agree on is the need to maintain their independence as long as possible, which is why most retirement villages offer cottages or apartments in which people can continue to live completely independently.

But the elephant in the cottage is that, well, there is no elephant in the cottage – and no other people either! In a nutshell, while most villages do have a great sense of community, it can be lonely at the end of the day when it’s just you, your TV, and perhaps your cat, in your – admittedly lovely – independent cottage or flat. This is especially true for people who have never lived alone until, for example, the death of a spouse.

Reliving your student days

And that’s where places like Chapmans House come in. It’s not a retirement village, and it’s certainly not a retirement home. It’s more like a student commune, but with somewhat more mature grey-haired ‘roomies’.

It’s a huge house with 14 en-suite rooms of various sizes, a large communal kitchen, lounge, library and dining area, and a huge garden with oodles of parking. And, much like in the student digs the residents may have lived in in the 1970s, each person has to muck in.

The rooms are serviced daily, and the communal areas cleaned, but the cleaner (and, yes, there is only one) is not there to pick up behind residents. As with most communal situations, there are some food cliques, in which two or more people share food buying and prep, but each resident needs to do their own cooking, or – as quite a few do – negotiate with Mr Delivery or UberEats, wash their own dishes, and do their own laundry. The garden is – avidly and keenly – looked after by the residents, with the assistance of a gardener who does the heavy work.

Position, position, position

Position is important in any real estate or residential situation, but even more so when you’re downsizing and simplifying your life. So Chapmans House’s position could not be better. Situated at the foot of Ou Kaapse Weg, it is within a few minutes’ drive of some great beaches and walks, and literally across the road from Sun Valley Mall with Checkers, Dis-Chem and loads more. Another hundred metres or so will get you to the Virgin Active, and another few hundred to the huge Long Beach Mall with a sizeable medical precinct just behind. Most residents do have a car, but they could get by without one, as most essentials are within easy walking distance. And, for the rest, there’s Uber.

 

How it works

Chapmans House is rented from the owner by Fish Hoek Eldercare (FHEC), which also runs Nerina Gardens and Carlisle Lodge, both of which are well-established retirement facilities. It is open to active, healthy, independent people aged 55 and over. Potential residents have to have a medical before they are accepted, and they enter into an agreement (not a lease) with FHEC. They can not depend on the other residents to take care of them, so part of the agreement is that – if they get sick, or are temporarily disabled with, for example, a broken leg – they will move out for the duration. They can stay with family or friends or – if that is not an option – they can go to Nerina Gardens for sub-acute care, which costs R650 per day.

A Nerina Gardens staff member visits every day from 13:00 to 16:00 to chat, check that everything is okay, deal with any issues, and generally act as a safety net. There is a weekly tea party, which is a good opportunity to get everyone together at once, and residents are welcome to join in Nerina Gardens’ monthly outings.
Residents pay between R6,000 and R9,000 per month, depending on the size and position of their rooms. The kitchen is fully equipped, and the communal areas are furnished by FHEC, but residents must furnish their own rooms.

The other elephant

The only constant is change, so, while the residents may be fully independent and very healthy when they move in, this is unlikely to be permanent. Unlike diamonds, true love, extinction, or a life right or sectional title purchase, residence at Chapmans House is not forever. So residents need to proactively fi gure out what the next step will be. Of course, they are free to move wherever they want to, but most put their names on the waiting list for Nerina Gardens, which operates on a rental basis. This will cost between R11,800 and R15,000 (depending on accommodation type and size) for assisted living, about R16,500 for frail care, and about R17,500 for the Alzheimer’s unit.

So, is this an opportunity?

A place similar to Chapmans House could be a great way to utilise a big house, or even to repurpose some other relatively big building. But, of course, most small developers would not want to be saddled with the specialised admin associated with ageing residents. So, if you have a property you think may be suitable for such a project, you really should consider some kind of agreement with a nearby established retirement facility – anything from a simple lease to a management contract or JV.

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