The Royal Commission and retirement living 

On Tuesday 9 March 2021, the Retirement Living Council brought together a panel of retirement living experts to discuss the impact of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on the retirement sector. 

Having received over 10,000 submissions, the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, released by commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs, makes 148 recommendations following a two-year investigation into the sector. 

We were joined by Amber Cartwright, Director at Ansell Strategic, Judi Coombe, Manager - Operations at Ansell Strategic, Arthur Koumoukelis, Partner at Thomson Geer, Beverly Smith, Executive General Manager Residential Communities at Australian Unity, and this panel was moderated by Helen Emmerson, CEO at Southern Cross Care (NSW & ACT). 

Cartwright spoke for a period at the start of the session, unpacking her thoughts extensively on what the findings of the Royal Commission means for the retirement living sector. 

She identified two recommendations that she believed were positive and warranted greater attention, Recommendation 1: A new Act and Recommendation 25: A new aged care program. 

"This is a fundamental shift into how we do aged care in Australia. When we look at how our systems currently work, we know that home care and aged care and retirement living, which sits on a tangent, don't really talk to each other. 

"We're really excited around those two recommendations and around having a new aged care program that is supported by a new aged care act. If this is the target, we're really happy." Cartwright said. 

There are significant limitations to rolling out these recommendations, with an estimated 15,000 extra home care staff and 15 million care hours needed to accommodated the proposed system. 

Koumoukelis indicated that there was ample opportunity for government to thread the needle on policy due to the differing opinions presented by the commissioners. 

"My real reaction to the final report now is that it is almost a baby boomer's manifesto. It is treating aged care a universal right totally funded like Medicare that has an open undefined scope to what degree that support goes to. 

"From any other generational point of view, it doesn't seem so flash, levies, taxes and the like. In terms of final report, I've found that it lacked that sense of policy to balance equity and to balance current service delivery, to provide the sense of appreciation as to what is going on at the moment." said Koumoukelis. 

It is difficult to totally understand what the true role of retirement living will be in the wake of these recommendations. 

This being said, are these recommendations realistic and achievable, with Coombe pointing out that this final report does offer a solid base to build real reform. 

One key takeaway was identified by Smith, as an operator on the panel, she was able to offer critical insight into what trends could be developed by retirement living to assist the recommendations of the Royal Commission. 

"There are emerging retirement village models in the sector, which is evident in the PwC/Property Council Retirement Census. 

"Older Australians want to live in a place where they can age in place, its an exciting time to look diversifying models." she said.