Last updated 22 June 2016

Retirement villages can be described in different ways or even be called different names, but essentially they are communal, self-contained, relatively secure housing environments for older people. They offer a wide range of living options including high-rise apartments, medium-density housing, townhouse developments and even luxurious, resort-style complexes with extensive facilities and services.

These villages are generally designed for older people who still enjoy some independence, but at the same time feel the need for some physical security and a low-maintenance lifestyle.

People considering a move into a retirement village should carefully think about many issues such as security of tenure, the return on their investment and the anticipated fulfilment of lifestyle and retirement needs, including long-term nursing care. Increasingly, retirement villages are also offering varying levels of personal care and assistance in recognition of the fact that older people do not transition to an aged care facility until their care needs exceed what can reasonably be delivered through in-home care.

Some retirement village operators are for-profit commercial developers, while others are church or not-for-profit operators. All run different schemes and some are more complicated than others. Some villages have nursing homes or hostels attached, allowing for what is known as ‘ageing in place’. There are varying types of tenure, and the contracts and supporting documents can be complex.

Choosing the village that suits the person (and their family) means understanding:

  • the lifestyle a person wants
  • the legal and financial arrangements they will be required to enter into
  • the rights and obligations while living in the village
  • what happens when the time comes to leave the village
  • what financial return a person will receive when they leave the village.

Whichever factors a person needs to take into account, there is no substitute for proper forward planning and getting expert legal and financial advice. For example, entering into a retirement village can have significant consequences for a person’s pension entitlements.