Did you see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel? We just loved that movie. It was all about positive energy and ageing gracefully without giving in to dullness, mediocrity, boredom and ‘beige bungalows’. It was about living life to the full. And it’s interesting that it had to use the not-actually-that-far-fetched concept of outsourcing ageing to get the message across.
If we think about when the classic retirement villages startied coming on the market in the 1980s, the people who were in their late 60s and 70s were those who were born in the early 20th century, and who reached adulthood during the almost planet-wide upheaval of the Second World War. Many had fought in the war and/or endured severely restricted lifestyles and freedom of choice, and then had worked hard for the next few decades to reclaim their lives and give their children a future. And, locally, these are the people who lived through Sharpeville and the Soweto uprisings as adults with teenage children. So, when it came to retiring, they just wanted to rest. Sit on the stoep with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and gaze out over the veld, or the ocean, or the mountains. Phew.
But their children – probably most of you reading this right now – had a very different experience. We grew up in a world that believed economic growth was unlimited, and that freedom and affluence together created the good life.
We challenged the old patterns and, rather than meekly accepting what the world dealt us, we re-created the world to fit in with our aspirations. We are the Baby Boomers – the inheritors of all our parents fought for. And we are not going to take old age lying down. We live longer, we work smarter, we play harder and we stay active, alive and involved. We may have spent many years on the planet, we may have gained wisdom and grey hairs, but we are not old.
Arthur Case, Director of Evergreen Lifestyle, says that people in their 50s and 60s are not even thinking of retiring – and they’re certainly not going to sit on the stoep. “We are facing,” he emphasised, “ a mega-shift in the paradigm of ageing.” There is a strong move, he said, towards multi-generational communities.
But, regardless of how many vitamins you take, how carefully you watch your diet, and no matter how much you pay your personal trainer, there are some hard facts that we all have to face as we age, and live longer. Much as we hate to admit it, our future may well involve reduced mobility, frailty, chronic illness, dementia or loss of hearing or sight. And that’s why most retirement villages have health services.
And that’s where you have to get clever in a multi-generational community. And that’s where the whole age-in-place process fits in. Many people are opting to stay where they are and to age in the homes they’ve lived in for decades. Some of the advantages of this option are that people are in familiar surroundings, they are living in a familiar community where they are surrounded by pets, children, young families, teenagers – in short, a traditional community mix. Come to think of it, there is nothing new in the concept of multi-generational communities – they just went out of fashion for a while.
Of course, while this may be seen as a positive by many people, there will still always be those who don’t want to be surrounded by pets, children and teenagers, so it’s likely that the dedicated retirement community is here to stay – it’s just not going to be the only option any more. So they may find that they need to tweak their offering to keep up with trends as their market becomes more demanding and much more discerning.
The choice is huge, so we will be covering the options in more detail in future issues, but here’s a quick overview of some
The traditional retirement village is not going to fade away, but it will almost certainly evolve into something more akin to a lifestyle estate. Take, for example, The Somerset Lifestyle and Retirement Village in Somerset West near Cape Town. It’s marketed as a retirement lifestyle estate that is indistinguishable from other lifestyle estates, except for the lack of toddlers, teenagers and territorial terriers. And, of course, with the concentration of ageing people comes the economies of scale for care centres, nursing stations and other age-specific products. So you know that – as you age – those needs we don’t like to think about will be taken care of.
Once having opted for a retirement estate, you can choose between some form of ownership – either freehold or sectional title, or a life right. This is a big decision, and you need to do your homework carefully to ensure that you are buying into a financially sustainable property. Whichever option you choose, you need to check that the developers are a reputable company with a proven track record, and – while it’s tempting to move into a small, intimate estate – that the levy base is sufficiently large to sustain itself without excessive increases that may put strain on people with a fixed income. This is a very complex topic, so we will cover it in much more detail in a future edition.
There is a distinct trend towards multi-generational estates – general lifestyle residential estates that have a retirement element. These are particularly popular with families who want to be close to parents and grandparents without compromising the independence of the older family members.
Kindlewood Estate on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast markets itself as a golf-free estate (although small-ball addicts can get their fix at Mount Edgecombe next door) with lots of wetlands, jogging trails and other sports facilities. Phase 4, now called Mount Edgecombe Retirement, has all the benefits of a traditional retirement facility but is accessible via Kindlewood. So it’s separate, but not totally apart. That means that little Isabella and little Liam can safely cycle to Gogo and Grandpa, and intergenerational babysitters are close by.
St John’s Village in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands offers a relaxed lifestyle for all ages. But within the estate is a section that is reserved for over-55s, and where buyers can choose between freehold, sectional title or life right packages. Of course, there is no age restriction on people who buy into the general estate, and they may well decide to stay exactly where they are as they age.
An interesting and innovative development in Cape Town is the creation of Evergreen at Lake Michele. Here the well-established retirement community developer Evergreen Lifestyle bought 32 units in the Lake Michele eco-estate in Noordhoek. Not a cluster of 32 homes – 32 homes scattered throughout the development. These are sold on life right, in the same way other Evergreen properties are, but they are, in every other way, totally integrated into the existing community.
Ageing in place and naturally occurring retirement communities
Staying in the house you’ve always lived in until you die is not a new concept – but it is being reinvented. Technology and innovative businesses make it possible for people to enjoy many of the advantages of retirement villages right at home.
The development of interactive communication devices, such as Call for Care, for medical and other emergencies, offers a real sense of security to older people living alone. They can be used to check in every day – indicating that the user is alive and well – or to call for help in the case of a medical or other emergency. In fact, they can be used by people of any age. They’re wearable and can be programmed to call medical assistance, armed response and/or a neighbour or relative. It’s a particularly popular gadget outside of residential estates for people who need to negotiate dark areas between the garage and the front door, or for people who jog, walk dogs or cycle – either alone or even in small groups.
And innovative financial products, like home equity conversion mortgages, make it financially viable for people to remain in their homes and buy in services they may need – for example, full-time home nursing. It’s kind of like a reverse mortgage. The bank will advance money to people over 62 – either a lump sum or a monthly amount – using the equity in a fully paid up home as security. And then, when the homeowner dies, the debt becomes part of their estate, so whoever inherits the house can choose to sell it, or to pay off the debt as if it were a standard mortgage bond.
While discussing ageing in place with Arthur Case, he mentioned naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), which happen when the people living in a suburb, part of a suburb or even a block of flats all age together. And one day you wake up and the whole neighbourhood is sporting grey hair. These NORCs represent a great opportunity for service suppliers to tweak the offerings of the existing environment by maybe supplying home care, security, cleaning services, interactive security systems, and perhaps even meal delivery. And the thing about NORCs is that – unlike retirement villages – there are no restrictive rules, and nothing to prevent younger neighbours moving in. In fact, it’s quite likely that, as some members of the NORCs die, their properties will be bought up (or inherited) by younger people, so a natural cycle is likely to ensue.
Or travel the world
There’s a lovely story on the internet of a woman who worked out that living on a cruise ship was cheaper than a retirement facility, the food was great, there was 24-hour medical assistance, and it offered the opportunity for inappropriate flirting with younger men. Sounds great, but it’s not real. Although … if you planned carefully maybe you could make it happen. Or, perhaps, here’s an interesting entrepreneurial opportunity to reinvigorate a financially distressed ocean liner. Hmmm…?
But seriously, the important thing is to not limit your choices. So, if you are comfortably established in a residential estate you love, chances are you will never have to move, but if you want to make a change, there are so many options. It’s your life – right until the end – and it’s your choice.