Executive director of the Retirement Villages Association, John Collyns, says finding an age-appropriate place to downsize to outside a retirement village is too tough. He chats to Mark Story.



Why is it now increasingly difficult for the elderly to find small enough homes to downsize to?

The overwhelming majority of new builds are for large houses of 200sq m or more because that's what developers perceive as the market demand. This means that finding a modern, warm, age-appropriate place to downsize to outside a retirement village is becoming increasingly difficult. Retirement villages, on the other hand, are almost all 120sq m or less, are purpose-built for older people, and are warm and easy to maintain. Most importantly, they are affordable.

Do you think addressing this issue is responsibility of central, or local government?
Apart from the issue of social housing, the Council's responsibility is to ensure that there is a supply of appropriately-zoned land available to retirement village developers. Ideally this land should be part of existing communities so people don't have to move away from their local links. Retirement villages should also be a permitted activity in a residential area rather than a discretionary activity. Villages are demonstrably residential, but if they go outside the underlying zone conditions of height, bulk, traffic, etc, they should get a resource consent in the usual way.

What are the advantages in moving to a retirement village?
Most 80-year-olds want just four things - a warm, comfortable, convenient place to live, enough money to live on, friends nearby, and a pathway to care should that be needed. Retirement villages provide all those things.

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Are you in favour of raising the superannuation age to 67?
We have no view on this matter.

Are there other countries/models you admire which have better dealt with the ageing mushrooming baby-boomers?
The NZ retirement village model and the consumer protection legislation is world-leading; I know because I am constantly asked to consult internationally on how our system might be adapted. So, to answer the question, I think we've got it pretty right in NZ.