'Like living on a cruise ship': WA retirement villages enter a new generation

'Like living on a cruise ship': WA retirement villages enter a new generation

'Like living on a cruise ship': WA retirement villages enter a new generation

Updated 8 October 2017, 9:40 AEDT

With heated pools and outdoor cinemas, next-generation retirement villages are having to offer much more to residents than bingo, as the industry scrambles to catch up with increasing demand.

A projected shortage of retirement village units over the next decade has left those in the industry scrambling to catch up, as discerning seniors demand ever more sophisticated facilities at their new homes.

About 5 per cent of retirees move into retirement villages across Australia, but that figure is set to grow to about 7 per cent.

In WA, that will mean an extra 24,000 retirement village units will need to be built over the next 10 to 15 years, a 75 per cent increase on the current level of stock.

For Glenda and Colin Best, the attractions of life in a retirement village are growing by the day.

The retired couple live in their own home in the seaside suburb of Port Kennedy, south of Perth, but keeping on top of their garden is becoming difficult.

"We'd like to go to something smaller, so we can cope a little bit better and enjoy our lives, perhaps travel a little bit," Mrs Best said.

Masonic Care chief executive Marie-Louise MacDonald says construction would need to pick up dramatically in order to meet demand.

"There's been a lot of refurbishment happening," Ms MacDonald said.

"The villages started in the 1960s, [but] a lot of them are coming to their end of life and are needing to be redeveloped."

'Like living on a cruise ship'

Sigrid Adams is director of sales for Village Solutions Australia, a West Perth-based real estate agency which manages retirement villages.

She said retirees now expected a much higher level of amenity than former generations did, with some villages offering services more commonly found in a hotel.

"Huge wooden dance floor, baby grand piano, cafe, pool table, bowling green, residents' workshop … it's like living on a cruise ship."

Access to medical services, transport and entertainment are among the top requirements of village residents, according to those in the industry, along with good security and a sense of community.

Many of those services require proximity to the inner city, meaning existing sites will need to be redeveloped due to a shortage of available land close to the CBD, making apartment-style retirement living a growing trend.

And not all of the residents will have retired by the time they move in, according to Ms McDonald.

"What I see now is that many, many people in villages are still working and they might be working into their 70s and 80s," she said.

"They want to be near where they can shop, near medical resources, near transport — they want to have entertainment."

Slow property market

But there are obstacles to building new villages — not least of which is the soft West Australian property market.

Retirement village operators say business is slow right now and people looking to downsize are finding it difficult to sell their family homes for the price they want.

Then there are zoning laws, which make it hard to build high-density or mixed-use villages.

But Simon Withers, who sits on the WA Property Council's committee on retirement living, says amending zoning laws would be relatively easy.

"The villages were built to the existing zoning requirements 20 or 30 years ago, but a lot of them are now locked into that level of density," Mr Withers said.

"What we need is for the government to allow villages, as a matter of right, to rebuild, and to build to higher density within their boundaries.

"The only way we're going to meet this demand is to redevelop the existing villages."