There are enduring ramifications of moving into a retirement village. This is why the long-awaited Victorian Government review of the Victorian Retirement Villages Act (RVA) 1986 is so important. Many people attracted to the ‘lifestyle’ and amenities of a retirement village sell their family home and move into a smaller residence to feel safe, maintain social connection and have access to home services and support as they age. Whilst many older people are happy (on balance) with their decision, there are practices within retirement villages that mirror those within aged care. Systemic age discrimination and the expression of ageism in day-to-day interactions with village management can impact on quality of life, as residents describe feeling ‘powerless’.
COTA Victoria has long called for significant reform to the retirement housing sector. The review provides an opportunity for Victoria to overhaul its regulation of retirement villages. This will allow it to meet the challenges of an expanding ‘industry’ whilst ensuring that the rights, protections and wellbeing of older people are fully considered. The average age of an older person living in a retirement village is 80 years. A third of residents – 33% – are more than 85 years of age. Increasingly, older people entering retirement communities are looking to ‘age in place’ and receive aged care services in the home. The retirement village industry is evolving and expanding into aged care services and facilities. More than ever, national consistency in the monitoring, regulation and compliance of retirement housing developments is needed.
Many older people don’t seek financial advice on the implications of their purchase before signing a contract. We have come to expect (or accept) that retirement village contracts will financially disadvantage a person over time. Residents may only realise the financial implications of the contract they have signed when they decide to leave. If legal advice is sought, many of these advisers don’t fully understand the complexity of the contracts. Older people must be able to make informed decisions when they are deciding where and how they should live in the latter stages of their life. Residents should have the freedom to leave a retirement village without compromising their long-term financial security and care choices as they age. The entrapment and exploitation of some older residents through current, legal financial models is unconscionable and must change. We are urging the Victorian Government to provide a vision and a pathway for achieving national consistency in retirement village regulation and reform.
COTA Victoria believes the RVA is no longer fit for purpose and requires an overhaul to meet the future needs and expectations of ageing Victorians. We wish to see unfair contracts, dispute resolution, exit fees and standards addressed. The Government’s Options Paper will be released mid-2020, with the opportunity for residents, prospective residents and families to make submissions. Register online to follow the progress of the review.
View COTA Victoria’s submission to the review.