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Louise Martin
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Let retirement be everything you dreamed it would be

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Let retirement be everything you dreamed it would be

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5 min read

Ageing and retirement can be considered a rite of passage, in the same way that graduating, getting your first job, or buying your first house are. But what makes retirement and ageing different is that they are about letting go, and many people let go reluctantly.

There are probably many reasons for that, but the main one is that ageing is defined by negatives and loss – the things we can’t do, the people who are no longer around, the jobs we no longer have. And, in the past, moving to ‘an old-age home’ was very institutional – where you see yourself being wheeled into the sun for half an hour every day and spoon-fed mashed banana.

But it’s not like that any more. Contemporary retirement estates or villages are places where people live – with the emphasis on ‘live’. And with the improvement of standards comes an array of choices. So, if you’re looking to move to – or invest in – a retirement property, either for yourself or a parent, you’ll need to ask a range of questions, as you are looking for an investment that is more than just financial.

Why consider a retirement facility?

There are several reasons why people choose to move into a retirement village: security, healthcare, lock-up-and-go lifestyle, to combat loneliness and, in some cases, it is just a great investment.

‘Choosing an estate that is financially secure and well run is vital in these unsettled economic times,’ says Sue Smith, CEO of Helderberg Village. ‘The choice of where to put down roots has grown dramatically for discerning retirees over the last few decades. Lifestyle estates are now held to a higher standard, not only in terms of the facilities and services on offer, but more importantly based on what value they can add to our retirement.’

Where do you want to grow older?

While retirement villages are becoming more and more attractive and there are a wider variety of options and price points, how we pictured ourself retiring might not be as practical in real life. The community support systems that you have built in your area should not be undervalued, and proximity to family and access to amenities should be taken into consideration.

When you make the move into a new retirement village, it is important that the development has a process in place to welcome new residents. We have often heard stories from new residents – for example, going to the dining area for dinner for the first time can be very nerve-racking, especially for the single residents.

‘Our residents are met by all the relevant role players throughout the “move-in” process,’ says Harry Pretorius, CEO and Developer at Noble Resorts. ‘By the time they spend their first night in their new homes, they feel reassured and a part of our Noble family.’

Regular engagement with new residents is important. Helderberg Village hosts a new villager morning tea once a quarter, where management and trustees, together with the various sporting clubs and societies, are invited so that they can meet the new villagers and introduce themselves. ‘We have a social dinner once a month hosted by one of our villagers who makes a point of inviting the new villagers as an introduction, and that has become a great starting point. I also host a CEO coffee morning once a month where I update the village on what has been happening. This has become so popular that you need to make a booking. I have recently introduced guest speakers, such as our insurance broker, arborist and environmentalist. New residents invited to this session are able to meet other villagers and feel more inclusive,’ comments Sue.

Having a communal space on the estate to socialise and meet your neighbours is always an added value. The Somerset Lifestyle and Retirement Village has a centralised clubhouse that includes, in addition to the supporting staff, a restaurant, library and healthcare centre. ‘The Lord Somerset Clubhouse offers residents the flexibility for social interaction,’ says Dion Potgieter, CEO of Westacre. The Somerset development offers a mix of property options and schemes, from freestanding homes to the apartments purchased as part of a life right scheme under the CPOA.

What are your purchase options?

A retirement property is often the last big purchase a person makes, so a ‘good’ financial decision may not be the same as it would be when buying an investment property, or even a family home – which almost always has some investment aspect. The different ownership and payment models for retirement villages each have advantages and disadvantages.

  • Some retirement estates offer full ownership models, either freehold or sectional title. You would need to pay your monthly levies, and financial, maintenance and insurance responsibilities vary based on the model and the development.
  • Although there are very few share block ownership schemes still active, share block involves buying shares in the company that owns the whole property. This was popular when it involved a significant tax advantage, and it is still a reasonable idea for holiday properties, but it is losing its lustre for retirement schemes.
  • Life right schemes have become a popular model in the last few years. With life right, you do not actually own the unit; you purchase the right to live in it until you – or your surviving spouse – dies. You are not responsible for maintenance or rates, your levies are kept affordable by a levy stabilisation fund, and you will not be expected to pay special levies. As life right is an investment in the quality of your life, in most schemes you do not get the value of capital appreciation, but your estate is paid a predetermined percentage on the ‘sell’ of the unit.

What are the options when it comes to healthcare?

Most communities promote staying in your retirement home for as long as possible; however, should you require additional medical support, there are options:

  • Assisted living units are small, semi-independent apartments in which you can live relatively independently, but that are closely supervised, with assistance just a quick button-call away.
  • Frail care units are almost like permanent hospital rooms. These involve full-time nursing and all meals.
  • Step-down or convalescence facilities are not the same as frail care. These are places with full-time nursing – often within a retirement estate – where you would go to recover from an illness or operation. It’s a temporary thing.
  • Dementia care requires specialised management. Often dementia patients are housed in frail care facilities; however, that is not ideal. One company that has specialised in dementia facilities is the Livewell Group, which has so far built two luxury dementia care facilities.

Choosing a community that best suits your lifestyle (and purse) can be challenging, but it’s the little extras that make it (slightly) less of a stressful process. Choose a community that has a team on hand that can help with setting up your new home equipment and assist you with letting go of the things you don’t need, as well as getting you connected to the internet and assisting with access control processes. Lifestyle offerings could include a pet-friendly community or transport to the local shopping centre, and even an easy-to-use communication system so that you can simply access any information that you might need. All of these small but important things can make a big difference.

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