Demand for retirement living surges

By David Porter

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Gary Cox, project manager, sales adviser Janet Coutts and village manager Max Mason on site at Bob Owens Retirement Village.
Gary Cox, project manager, sales adviser Janet Coutts and village manager Max Mason on site at Bob Owens Retirement Village.

A large extension to the Bob Owens Retirement Village in Bethlehem reflects Tauranga's role as New Zealand's leading centre for retirement village residences, say sector experts.

Demand for retirement living in Tauranga had exceeded owner Ryman Healthcare's original expectations, said village manager Max Mason.

Bob Owens Village was opened in 2012 and its final stage - a 20-apartment extension on its Carmichael Rd boundary - is under way.

"The village has been more of a success than Ryman imagined so it has been necessary to extend," Mr Mason said.

"The opportunity came up to buy some additional land to build more apartments and the village centre needed to be redesigned to cope with the higher number of residents."

The Bay of Plenty has an estimated 39 retirement villages with 3500 residents out of a total nationally of 25,000, according to the Jones Lang Lasalle New Zealand Retirement Village Database, published in May 2014.

John Collyns, executive director of the Retirement Villages Association, said that his organisation had 31 villages in the Bay of Plenty, excluding Rotorua. "Tauranga is a thriving part of the sector."

Bob Owens sales adviser Janet Coutts said there had been strong interest in the new apartments, which offered views across Tauranga. The Bob Owens home had residents ranging from those living in independent apartments to people requiring specialist hospital and dementia care. Once the latest stage was finished, it would be home to about 520 residents.

Data for the sector differentiates between those in retirement villages and those in aged care homes who have some degree of dependency. There was an estimated 32,000 people in the latter category, said Mr Collyns.

"The mixed model is becoming more common," he said. "It's probably fair to say the majority of new villages built these days tend to offer the full continuum of care."

He said residents bought retirement villas in order to free capital from the family home, to get rid of maintenance concerns, and to enjoy a secure environment with people of the same age group.

"That's why the sector is so successful and Bob Owens is no different to any other operator in that regard."

The Bob Owens village was typical of the sector in having a village centre with amenities such as a bar, hairdressing salon and indoor swimming pool. Mr Mason said the expansion would also provide extra space for activities including exercise classes, and arts and crafts sessions. "This is definitely the last stage, we have no more space," he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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