On the go and no time to finish that story right now? Your News is the place for you to save content to read later from any device. Register with us and content you save will appear here so you can access them to read later.
To mark today’s International Day of Older Persons, Simon Collins investigates the social implications of the blossoming phenomenon of retirement villages.
'Like living in Club Med" or "siloing a generation". Retirement villages attract strong feelings for and against.
Villages are sprouting everywhere. Sharebrokers Forsyth Barr list 20 new villages with 4643 homes under construction or planned in Auckland alone.
Real estate researchers Jones Lang LaSalle say resident numbers nationally have jumped by a third in two years from 24,700 in 2012 to 32,900 last year. About one in eight New Zealanders aged 75 and over now lives in a retirement village.
To their residents, the villages are like reaching paradise early.
"It's like living in Club Med or on a cruise ship every day," says Steve Proctor, at 66 one of the youngest residents in Settlers Albany, a 186-unit village at Albany Village where a final 60-unit block is now under construction.
"My wife and I came here in January 2014. We sold our house because we could see a lot of maintenance coming up. We came here and thought, 'What a lifestyle!' I play bowls, I play table tennis, I play pool and snooker."
But others worry about what Age Concern Counties Manukau executive officer Wendy Bremner calls "siloing a generation that is separate from the community".
"You lose the opportunity for intergenerational support in a community, and you remove people that are around in a community on a day to day basis," she says. "Maybe a young mum might say, 'Can you look after my toddler while I go and do something?' You are taking away that opportunity for intergenerational discovery, so the neighbours miss the opportunity to support the older people and the older people miss the opportunity to support their younger neighbours."
Until recently, most elderly people in all countries lived with their adult children, grandchildren and other relatives. This has changed in developed countries in just two generations, for three reasons.
First, many families have scattered around the world. Waikato University sociologist Peggy Koopman-Boyden says it's not realistic to expect elderly people to leave their own friends and networks to join adult children in another town or another country.
"Moving from Hamilton to Auckland to live with your children is almost the worst thing you can do," she says. "If you move away from your friends circle and try to make new friends at 85, it's a bit tricky."
Second, most women of working age are now in paid work so they are no longer available to look after their parents.
And third, older people are staying healthy and active for much longer. They can, and want to, stay in charge of their own lives.
"I couldn't imagine going and living with my children," says Marj Tyson, 73, who moved with her husband Rob into Settlers Albany four years ago. "I wouldn't want to live in their kitchen."
Two shorter-term factors are driving the current supercharged demand. One is the big group of "baby-boomers" born just after World War II now reaching their 70s. The other is Auckland's sky-high house prices. Forsyth Barr research director Jeremy Simpson says the hot housing market makes it easy for older people to sell their existing homes at prices that let them buy into a retirement village and have plenty left over for travel or savings.
The 694 retirement village units consented in Auckland in the year to August made up 8.1 per cent of all 8615 new dwelling consents in the region, helping to ease the housing shortage. Nationally, retirement villages represented 7.1 per cent of new dwelling consents.
On the immaculate bowling green at Settlers Albany, it's easy to see the attraction. Although almost surrounded by apartment blocks, it is eerily quiet and peaceful. Palm trees separate the bowlers from a croquet lawn and a petanque court.
Inside the main building, a vast carpeted hall contains a stage used for drama and concerts, a restaurant serving an average of 60 diners three days a week and a wide-screen TV lounge and bar well patronised during Rugby World Cup games. Upstairs there's another big room used for cards, indoor bowls, table tennis and art classes.
There's a library run by a residents' committee, a theatre run by the village's two groups of film enthusiasts, a well-equipped gym run by former Olympic weightlifter Precious McKenzie and a swimming pool well used by grandchildren visiting in the school holidays.
There's even a blokes' shed out the back stocked with tools brought in by the residents.
"The gate closes at night, there's a code," says Rob Tyson. "People can't get into your apartment area unless you let them."
But the world is nearby if you want it and there's a bus stop at the gate.
"You can walk up to the Albany Village," says Lex Delaney, 80, who chairs the residents' committee.
"You can do the [Albany] mall in 10 minutes," says Doug Bishop, 72.
And people look after one another. The Tysons, who lived in Africa and Britain before coming to New Zealand to be near their family, have been overwhelmed with support.
"I had back surgery shortly after coming in," Mrs Tyson says. "We'd only been here three months, but I had so much kindness shown to me - people bringing food, sending cards. I had never ever had that in my home in Greenhithe in eight years."
For residents, the two main worries are the financial structure and what might happen if eventually they can't remain independent. Financially, most villages sell a "licence to occupy" a unit. When people move out or die, they or their estate typically get back only what they originally paid for the licence minus about 30 per cent which effectively covers the cost of renovating the unit for the next occupants.
Forsyth Barr says licences are typically priced at around 50 to 80 per cent of house values in the area, so they go up with house price inflation. But that capital gain is captured by the village owner, not the residents. In addition, residents pay fees to cover costs such as rates, insurance, maintenance, gardening and security. At Settlers Albany the fee has just gone up to $689 a month for each unit.