Record levels of working older Australians driving housing reform

Remaining in work – at least part-time – in what were traditionally retirement years, is having a dramatic effect on the types of housing older Australians are seeking.

It’s no secret that Australians approaching retirement age are increasingly choosing to remain in work, even if just part-time.

Research from Downsizing.com.au found that in December 2021, the percentage of Australians aged between 60 and 64, and 50 to 54, who were working, was at record levels, while the employment rate for people aged 55 to 59 and over 65 was at near-record levels.

This translates to around 3.99 million Australians over 50 and 1.17 million aged over 65 currently working.

Read: Retirement living transition checklist for those making the change

Whatever the reason for continuing to work, it’s affecting the types of aged care accommodation Australians are looking to retire in, be that in the community or in an aged care setting.

Downsizing CEO Amanda Graham says retirees are looking for more “age-appropriate” housing, loaded with all the essential technological features .

“This includes the ability to live within a community of people of a similar age, to be able to access safe housing with limited or no trip and step hazards, to experience a new lifestyle and to have reduced housing maintenance,” Ms Graham says.

“However, there is a need to recognise that, in coming years and decades, more over-50s housing communities are likely to include a blend of both working and retired people.

Read: Why you should stay in your home – or hometown – in retirement

“In the future, we expect the focus of over-50s communities will be more about lifestyle than retirement, which will mean people will expect facilities that allow them to keep working alongside places of leisure, relaxation and recreation.”

Some people choose to return to paid employment after retirement to keep their minds and social lives active. For others, the decision is driven by financial anxiety.

YourLifeChoices’ Ensuring financial security in retirement survey found that many Australian retirees were worried about running out of money if they ceased working altogether, with just 37 per cent saying they could maintain their lifestyle until the end of their lives.

The data, gathered in 2021 from 4102 respondents, shows just 11 per cent of Australian retirees were ‘very confident’ their savings will last.

Changes to the Age Pension eligibility age – currently 66.5 years but rising to 67 in 2023 – is also a likely contributor.

Read: You think you have enough? Here’s why you’re probably wrong

The average retirement age in Australia is 55.4, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a full 12 years before Age Pension eligibility kicks in. The survey data found that 59 per cent of retirees consider the Age Pension to be “very important” to maintaining their lifestyle.

With the gap between average retirement age and Age Pension eligibility age increasing, remaining in work beyond 55 looks set to become increasingly common and retirement accommodation will need to catch up.

“We expect that the industry term ‘retirement living’ will become dated and more housing providers, particularly those targeting people under 65, will use more inclusive marketing terms that embrace working people,” Ms Graham says.

Are you working? At what age do you hope to retire? Will you work part-time? Are you confident your nest egg will last? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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