“Most older people would prefer to remain in their homes for as long as possible,” says Arthur Case, Chief Executive Officer of one of SA’s largest providers of retirement living – Evergreen Lifestyles. “But what is crucial is to decide early on what that home is. Are we thinking about staying on in our family home for as long as possible, or is it a home we have selected specifically to cater for the rest of our lives during retirement?”
Case believes that for South Africans specifically, choosing to remain in the family home can be problematic. With older people being more vulnerable to crime, security concerns are high on the agenda for those getting on in years, as well as for their children, who may find themselves constantly worrying about an elderly parent. “In addition,” Case points out, “the burden of maintaining a home is likely to become too great as a person gets older. Home maintenance may become a liability for someone over 80, for example, and this is something one should take into account long before reaching that age.”
Having an all-encompassing plan to cater for life after 65 is very valuable since it can help avoid a crisis arising from an unexpected event, such as an injury, decline in mental capacity or a criminal incident.
According to Case, “The goal is that a person should be able to live independently for as long as it’s feasible. If the retiree is still in the suburban family home long after the children have moved out, there is a risk that independent living may not be possible at some point.”
Planning for retirement accommodation should take into account a range of factors: Is the accommodation secure? Who will be responsible for the maintenance of the property and the particular residential unit? Should one’s health fail, are there medical facilities nearby? In addition, the question of costs and one’s finances is always a concern.
Retirement lifestyle villages have become increasingly attractive since they ease many of the concerns that older people face. As Case points out, “An older person may be worried that moving into a retirement home could mean compromising on quality of life. That perception stems from the stereotype of accommodation for older people – the aged home that is like a hospital. But retirement lifestyle villages are quite different, and can in fact improve one’s quality of life.”
Many of these lifestyle villages offer a range of accommodation options, geared to cater for the ‘ageing in place’ concept, where one can choose to live completely independently in a free-standing house, downsize to an apartment, or move into frail care should this become necessary – all within the same secure estate.
“When people move in and their health is still fine, they can live in very much the same way as they would in any secure cluster home development – but with the added benefit of resort-style facilities,” Case says. These may include a heated pool, a bowling green, a gym, and walking paths in the garden areas. Plus, they will be in a community of like-minded people with whom they can form new friendships. The facilities can be used by residents in any of the accommodation options.
In the experience of Evergreen Lifestyles, couples tend to first favour a move into a house, followed by the possibility of a move later on into an apartment. “This happens mostly after one spouse passes away; the surviving spouse may feel more comfortable in a smaller apartment environment,” Case says. “The advantage is that the move is not a major event, since it happens in a comfortable, familiar environment.”
The demand for apartment living has prompted Evergreen Lifestyles to build more of these units. There are new apartment blocks under construction in the Johannesburg Broadacres Village, and in Noordhoek, Cape Town, while apartments are also available at the Muizenberg Village in Cape Town.
Financially, the Evergreen Lifestyle model is based on the sale of a Life Right, rather than full ownership of the property. Since one is buying a right to live in a home, rather than the property itself, it tends to be more affordable than a full or sectional title unit would be. “Importantly,” Case advises, “since the developer remains the owner, the developer is responsible for maintenance.”