How retirement living can deliver best bang for buck

From February 2017, home care services for nearly 900,000 older Australians will get “turned upside down”, says aged care strategist Cam Ansell – and that presents huge opportunities for the retirement living sector.

Ansell (pictured), managing director of advisory firm Ansell Strategic, provides insight and analysis to companies working across the aged care and retirement living sectors in Australia.

He’s currently undertaking research on behalf of the Property Council, and says changes to the way home care is funded could help people live better lives for longer, while supporting urban renewal in our suburbs.

“Home care is the biggest form of care in Australia – with nearly 900,000 older people receiving some form of home care service,” Ansell explains.

“As it currently stands, the majority of home care is funded by the Australian Government and delivered by both not-for-profit and for-profit service providers. A series of reform changes from February 2017 will give eligible older Australians direct access and control of this funding.

“This means people can choose any provider they want – whether that’s one based on reputation, value for money, or something else.”

Ansell says the current model of home care is expensive, inefficient and therefore unsustainable.

“The shape of the Baby Boomer generation means they don’t have as many children as previous generations did, and those children are often more transient. As a result, access to informal care is shrinking.”

At the same time, the need for aged care services is increasing exponentially.

“We currently have five taxpayers for every older Australian. In the next two decades this will shrink to 2.7 taxpayers for every older person. As the burden on the taxpayer goes up, the consumer will need to pay more – or we’ll have to find smarter solutions.”

One of those solutions is the retirement village model, Ansell says, which provides the perfect platform to support home care services.

“Retirement living units are usually age-friendly, have communal infrastructure, such as consulting rooms for visiting GPs, and some even have nurses on site. They have the capacity to support people who would otherwise be socially isolated, to address niggling health problems before they become big issues, all the while giving the taxpayer best bang for buck.”

It’s also a solution to the growing cost of housing in Australian cities.

“At the moment, a disproportionate number of retired people – a massive 90 per cent – have excess capacity in their houses. This means they are living in one or two rooms, while young families that do need the space find it hard to find suitable accommodation. This dynamic is ageing our suburbs.”

Keeping people in unsuitable housing isn’t just inconvenient and socially isolating, it’s also dangerous. Seventy-seven per cent of people over 65 who present at hospital from external causes have suffered a fall at home.

“Once you’ve had a fall, the next step is often a nursing home because people can’t recover in ill-equipped houses.”

In contrast, research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that people in retirement villages who are receiving home care services have a much lower interface with the emergency department.

“While people living for longer is a cause for celebration, it also brings with it many challenges. Our current model is expensive for both the taxpayer and consumer, it’s socially isolating and leaves people in houses that are not age-friendly.

“When retirement living is delivered well, it creates a massive economic boost, while addressing many of the challenges presented as our population ages,” Ansell concludes.

Cam Ansell will be presenting his research results at the National Retirement Living Summit in Melbourne from 28-29 November. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring Health and Wellbeing’ and tickets are available online.

The Retirement Living Policies and Procedures Manual 2014 assists retirement villages in preparing for third-party Lifemark accreditation and is a valuable training manual and guide for staff. Purchase a copy today.