Is This The Solution To Australia’s Retirement Living Time Bomb?

October 12, 2016

By 2030, the Australian Bureau of Statistics forecasts that over 19 per cent of the entire population will be older than 65, by 2050 that will amount to over 8.1 million people. So, what should the development industry be doing to prepare?

With the demographic time bomb looming, the retirement living sector is still crippled with red tape, planning restrictions and an overly competitive market for development sites – making it difficult for the development industry to provide the retirement living solutions needed for this growing demographic.

MacroPlan Dimasi’s 2014 report into aged living has forecast that the impacts of health and ageing on the Australian economy are likely to be 5-10 times greater than the carbon tax/climate change.  But, given the unprecedented growth levels in the retirement demographic the industry’s current approach is not nearly agile enough to deal with the long term needs to accommodate this demographic.

The industry’s short term approach to retirement living is to push communities to the middle-outer ring suburbs – where planning restrictions are minimised and land values are more affordable.

According to Brent O’ Neill, Director & Studio Design Lead at ML Design, it’s essential that the industry starts to consider ageing in place as a desirable and importantly an affordable option in moving towards solutions for this issue.

“Older Australians are looking for solutions that allow them to age in place and live a lifestyle of their choosing, which is something that they lose by moving to the outer suburbs,” Mr O’ Neill said.

“We need to look for solutions that are affordable and yet support our inner city community rejuvenation and promotion of community assets.”

A Solution

To sufficiently deal with the demographic time bomb, the development industry should be looking further than the short term incentives offered by local councils and begin thinking about long term and sustainable solutions to aged care.

According to The 5 A’s of Retirement Living– a study commissioned by the Property Council of Australia (PCA) – one of the major areas for improvement on current retirement communities is a village bus that allows residents to go to the shops and get involved in wider community activities.  It’s clear that residents in retirement communities want to get involved in their community, which is why the development industry needs to consider how to create aged care developments that also benefit our cities as a whole.

“What if we took a current seniors retirement model, requiring a large land parcel and broke it into its core parts and created a number of seniors living sites focused around a local centre and its existing community infrastructure?” Mr O’ Neill said.

“Retirement communities don’t always have to be located on a single site. If we broke the development into its core parts, we would be able to secure a number of smaller sought-after sites in close proximity to village centres – something that would immensely benefit residents and local businesses.

“This solution relies on developers having the opportunity to secure retirement sites that may currently have overlays that limit development, such as demolition controls.

“Of course, competition for inner-urban sites is going to remain high, but allowing development under the banner of ‘ retirement living’  could provide the competitive edge to securing affordable inner urban sites for retirement and seniors living.”

An out-of-the-box solution like this one, may be one of the options that need to be considered by Local Governments for securing accommodation for our ageing population.

Without these type of paradigm shifts in our planning for our communities our ability to house our ageing population is a time bomb with a very short fuse.



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