Everyone has a different idea about what they want out of retirement living and there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach. Positive ageing advocate Marcus Riley said while retirement living communities may provide great benefits for individuals, he acknowledged community living was not for everyone.
"Retirement living communities can have a really positive impact on people's social connections, with an active calendar to help build friendships and support around you," he said. "But it is important to invest time in considering your options and what is right for you and/or loved ones."
Mr Riley, who is the director of the Global Ageing Network and a member of the steering committee for the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older People, shared five key considerations to help individuals determine the right retirement living option.
"As with successful ageing more generally, the best way to ensure you access the best care for your needs is by maximising your available choices, which is achieved through planning what you may require, what you want and where you want it to be," Mr Riley said.
"This will involve considering some what-if scenarios which aren't exactly a joy to ponder, but by word it is well worth doing. It is about contemplating what is important to you, so your personal priorities govern future decisions. Planning will help you maintain control, at a time where you are at greatest risk of having no control."
"Individuals need to establish criteria along with their personal preferences, that need to be met. For instance, consider location and ask yourself, do I want to be somewhere I live now? Somewhere closer to my family? Do I want to live in the hustle and bustle of an urban area or by the seaside?" he said.
Additionally, the range of services and amenities need to be considered to ensure they are suited to individual needs and preferred lifestyle. "Ask yourself if there is a good physical therapy program to help me maintain my mobility? Does the physical environment appeal to me? Is green space important to me? Do I need a place with a view? Which village will keep me connected with community and support network?"
Mr Riley encouraged individuals to spend time researching which providers are reputable and most aligned with their personal needs and wants. "In researching your options, it's important to obtain information about the provider organisation and ascertain what their values and reputation are, as well as who is leading them," he said.
"I'd strongly urge individuals to speak with people who possess direct experience of a village, which ideally would be residents and families, but could also be staff, GPs or other service providers associated with the village. It is vital to obtain full details regarding fees and charges as they may vary from place to place and identify those 'hidden costs' as well."
Riley suggested individuals ask the owner and the operator questions. "Asking questions is a great way to get some insight into the reputation of the village owner and their structure. Do your own research and speak with people who live there and key staff members - this will allow you to check that the organisation is aligned to your own values," he said.
"It's imperative to properly understand all of the details of the financial and contractual arrangements. Be proactive and seek your own legal advice so you are completely clear and confident with the terms and conditions of your purchase and ongoing arrangements. This is something you want to be clear-cut from the start."