Retirement villages have been in the news lately, with a lot of misunderstood and factually inaccurate opinion pieces by people who ought to know better. The general thrust of the stories was that residents didn’t understand what they were buying and were somehow stupid for doing so.
The residents I talk to are angry and frustrated at the suggestion they have been somehow hoodwinked. Our residents may be older, but they are certainly not stupid. Independent research shows overwhelming satisfaction rates among residents and 100 Kiwis are moving to a village every week.
The tide of ill-informed comment reached a high point at Easter, which called for an effective and high-profile way to get residents’ views in front of the public. This resulted in a full-page advertisement in the main metro papers the weekend after Easter.
We invited residents, especially resident committee chairs, to consult and sign the statement, and, with just 36 hours’ notice, more than 10,000 residents and their representatives did so. We were under time pressure to get the advertisement in the papers so if we had another 48 hours, we’re told that twice as many residents would have put their names to the advertisement. It’s not easy to get hold of busy, retired people.
Happy with their decision
Research shows that residents are happy and satisfied with their decision to move into a village. They did their homework, they talked with family and friends, engaged a solicitor to review the contract as is required under the law and visited a range of villages – they made an informed decision, so let’s give our residents some credit.
Our research shows most people move into a village for the lifestyle. They don’t want to worry about on-going maintenance or insurance, they want a greater sense of security, confidence about their financial future, a community of friends, and the convenience of on-site healthcare services.
However, we have always accepted the need for improvements to the sector’s consumer protections regime where they are feasible and make sense.
The RVA has already announced significant changes to the way we operate, including addressing unfair clauses in Occupation Rights Agreements and best practice disclosure guidelines regarding residents’ transfer to care. The majority of operators have already stopped charging fees after termination and many other villages are following this lead.
The RVA’s Blueprint for Improvement has a target of all villages to institute some best practices and later this year these, currently voluntary, provisions will be voted on by members to become mandatory.
The question of transferring to care has also been a talking point. Villages offer a continuum of care and we know this is important for many residents in their decision to choose one village over another. Generally speaking, around 15 – 20 percent of village residents actually move to care, and the transfer is seamless for the vast majority. In 2021, less than two percent of residents had to move away either temporarily or permanently because a bed wasn’t available when they needed it (see the RVA’s submission to the Select Committee considering a petition from Sue Brown).
We are working constructively with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development through a review of the Retirement Villages Act. There are a number of things we’d like to see reviewed so this is a great opportunity to sort out some of the wrinkles we have with the system.
If your branch would like to know more about what we’re doing and the rationale for it, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to speak to your branch at no cost to you.