Renovation or retirement home? The great ‘age in place’ conundrum

Longer-lived Australians sacrificing quality of life by refusing to quit home

Can your house cope with you?

You may not see signs of fingernail scratches on the door jambs yet, but it is a fact that most older Australians would have to be led kicking and screaming out of their homes and into aged care.

Property Council of Australia data says the average age people move out of their house and into a retirement village or nursing home is 75 years.

Yet, the vast majority of Australians aged in their 80s and 90s are staying put. The latest census reveals that 80 per cent of people between 85 and 89 years, and half of those aged 95 to 99 years, are still living in their own home.

And while we are living longer, sometimes the old bones haven’t quite kept up, making mobility around the home difficult.

Sources suggest that enquiries into retrofitting private homes to make them ‘age friendlier’ are soaring , as older people put off the inevitable need to be cared for in facilities other than their homes. Home Modifications Australia (MOD.A) Director Michael Bleasdale told YourLifeChoices that, all around the nation, there is a strong trend towards “ageing in place”.

However, he said there were two different types of clients retrofitting their homes: those who could afford to do it on their own terms and those who needed to rely on the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

MOD.A, which is the peak body for organisations involved in home modifications, has been lobbying for the NDIA to clear the backlog of applications from people needing their houses retrofitted.

Late last year, the body presented NDIA officials with data, case studies and member feedback about “the huge backlog of major home modification assessment reports held up” within the system.

It also brought to the agency’s attention “the widespread confusion about the process of … assessment, inconsistencies in the NDIA review of major home modification reports, and a range of the problems arising from lack of engagement” with the renovation sector.

“We were told that the agency hoped to gain more traction on assessments in February,” said Mr Bleasdale.

While vulnerable Australians are forced to wait for the wheels of government to grind on, many may feel tempted to take a stepping stone to aged care life via buying into or leasing from a retirement village group.

However, consumer group CHOICE cautions against moving into a village unless you are fully aware of the huge costs involved from day one through to when you leave the complex.

The group warns: “The upshot is that it's very hard to know how bad the deal is until you decide to leave the village, whether because the operator exaggerated its charms or because you just need to move out.

“At that point you might find out the undisclosed and unexpected exit costs have made your village unit a very poor investment indeed. And to rub salt in the wound, the village operators often don't have to pay you back what's left of your loan until months after you've left, and sometimes even longer.”

Another important consideration is that, over time, the village apartment you buy may eventually need modifications. At that point, it is likely you will have to pay for them yourself.

Do you need to renovate your home to make it more “friendly”? Have you been affected by the NDIA taking its time with assessments? Would you prefer to pay for renovations you have control over? Is the thought of moving into a retirement village more appealing?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Ted Wards
    25th Jan 2018
    Just wondering if the reporter realises that the NDIS/NDIA is for people under 65 receiving services through their state government? Ageing in place refers to people over 65 and receive help from a different program from the Commonwealth Government? People over 65 are rarely eligible for funding from NDIS but rather CHSP or the home package program?

    People who go into retirement villages are usually self funded retirees who purchase a leasehold and the aged care act at the moment does not apply. To be able to get into residential care or receive home care packages, an ACAT assessment has to take place and at the assessment all the needs of the consumer are identified, including possible changes to the home. If the person is assessed at level 4 they can elect to stay home with support or move into residential care.
    So people who usually are on the disability support pension and living in public housing would be very unlikely to go into a retirement village because you have to purchase a leasehold which is quite expensive.
    I think the point you are trying to make is its better to stay put and modify than shift?
    Im sure your aware that the Government is also holding an enquiry into the retirement industry as they should. Im pretty sure you have written articles about the outrageous treatment when people go to move out. That's why its important to know that the aged care act does not cover retirement villages so ageing in place does not apply either.
    25th Jan 2018
    "So people who usually are on the disability support pension and living in public housing would be very unlikely to go into a retirement village because you have to purchase a leasehold which is quite expensive."

    Some are available for rent, Ted, but they're few and far between.
    25th Jan 2018
    The NDIA covers persons living with disability under 65 years of age. If you are over 65, then guess what, you're on your own.
    25th Jan 2018
    No, there's MyagedCare for 65 and over. But they're as bureaucratically abysmal as the NDIS.
    25th Jan 2018
    NDIS is only available for people under 65. Over 65 then people are able to access other services through their doctor.The point is that the it is better to stay in your own home and modify your own home rather than moving into a retirement village or nursing home, Rather stay put and have help at home than move into a shoddy nursing home.Ted you make very valid points concerning those of us on a disability pension
    25th Jan 2018
    Nursing homes, thats a thought to give you shivers...making our home more user friendly would seem to me to be the best option.
    25th Jan 2018
    Agreed, outlander, many care homes seem to have regressed two or three hundred years and and are little better than the Workhouse.
    25th Jan 2018
    It depends. There is a time when modifications are not enough and people can no longer care for themselves. There is also the loneliness factor when people can no longer drive and are housebound. The nursing home my mother went into was good and staff were caring. The meals were healthy and better than the meals on wheels she was having. She also had people to mix with regularity, and was no longer frightened
    25th Jan 2018
    Also remember that moving into a retirement village does not "automatically" give you any access to aged care services. Some retirement villages do not want to attract new residents requiring, or soon to require, aged care services and/or the village does not have any aged care services available for residents. Sometimes even if there is an aged care home on the same premises as the retirement village, it does not necessarily give the right of access to an aged care room to the rv residents who live there.
    25th Jan 2018
    how are such things done in a rental ??
    25th Jan 2018
    I turned 65 in December and this makes me wonder what the Government thinks happens to us 65+ers? Do we just vanish into thin air or what? Fortunately I am now living in a home my huz and I designed to be Disability Friendly. No stairs or steps and all on one level and on a reasonably level 5 acre property in a quiet pretty place in the Adelaide Hills.
    Our home has larger doorways to take a wheelchair and a big ensuite with a larger semi frameless shower screen to take a shower chair. However having said that when we had our home built 4 years ago there were no Builders who specialised in Disability Friendly homes.
    I worked in Aged Care for many years so I had firsthand knowledge of the necessary requirements and I think we have catered for most eventualities.
    I remember the very nice Moving Man Boss who said to us 'If you ever want to move again let us know'. My huz and I both said 'Next time we move it will be in a box'.
    The Moving Man Boss laughed and said 'I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that'.
    26th Jan 2018
    Chanrama, like you my late husband and I designed and built a wheelchair accessible home 11 years ago, to suit him as he used a wheelchair. I had also worked in aged/community services and knew most of the needs. We visited the Independent Living Centre in Adelaide and obtained a detailed booklet detailing dimensions for wheelchair access and other tips, which we passed on to our builder. The home is all on one-level (no steps), both our ensuite and main bathroom/toilets are wheelchair accessible, all doorways are wider, the hallway is wider, the main bedroom is huge to accommodate the necessary lifter to transfer him from chair to bed, we have lots of hand/grab rails throughout. This home is ideally suited for me to age-in-place.
    Our removalist said that all homes should have wider doorways as it makes moving furniture in/out so much easier!
    25th Jan 2018
    if over 65 and u feel that u need help eg transport, house cleaning or other service, then u just register with. MY AGE CARE. i have just done it and although it is quite a lengthy process is worth it to do it right. it is a government organisation ph. no1800 200422.

    25th Jan 2018
    Nursing homes are the pits. I know; I speak from experience. They're in it for the money. my advice> stay at home and get home-care package assistance as you need it.
    25th Jan 2018
    Definitely better to stay put and upgrade where necessary. At least you know where your hard earned money is going and you keep your independence.
    27th Jan 2018
    I'd like to know which retirement village(s) have units/villas for's an oxymoron to the retirement village industry to rent and not have exit fees!!
    29th Jan 2018
    Retirement villages don't cater for those who are starting to need assistance. They are for still active people who simply don't want a big house with lots of maintenance.
    There may be one or two places where one can move to a village, then transition to care in the same complex. They are rare and expensive.

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