For many of us, as our parents age, we face the dilemma of what to do about their living arrangements.
Children fear their ageing parents may become isolated living in a home that is completely inappropriate for their needs, and this is a real concern for widowed or single seniors, particularly women. It is an unfortunate fact that many husbands pass on before their wives, leaving elderly widows to face these decisions alone.
It is a continuing source of angst for the children of many families to try and convince elderly parents to move out of the suburban home, where they may have lived for 20 or more years, into more appropriate accommodation. We have all heard far too many stories of elderly citizens who have had a fall at home and been injured on the floor for three days before someone realised they were missing.
So when is it appropriate to move?
In my experience, you should consider moving your parents if:
• They are alone and/or lonely;
• They fear for their safety or have security concerns about their house or neighbourhood;
• They don’t drive or have access to a car, and public transport is not available nearby;
• They are bored;
• They have an older property that is likely to require considerable investment in the near future on major items such as roofing, flooring, plumbing or wiring; or
• They are experiencing access issues in their current home, such as a steeply sloping block, steps or multiple levels.
If none of these concerns are applicable, perhaps they could stay where they are and have care services brought to them.
Should I move into a retirement village or just a smaller house?
The decision whether to move into a retirement community or just into a smaller house is also a complex one. You must understand one important point, however — a retirement community is about lifestyle. If your parents are bored, lonely or alone, or fear for their safety, then they should definitely consider a retirement community because it will enrich their lives from just about every perspective.
If they already enjoy a busy retirement with a big social network and lots of activities, they could probably address all their needs simply by moving to a newer, smaller, more secure and better located home. In this case your parents would also want to be in relatively good health, or have access to an emergency alarm pendant if they are aged in their late seventies or above.
Financially, your parents are almost always better off staying in their existing home. Buying and selling property incurs significant costs such as stamp duty, moving costs and agent’s commissions, which can take many years of capital growth to offset. Even if their yard is too large and they need to get a mowing service in to do the gardens once a month, or a cleaner to help with the vacuuming every week, it can still be worth staying put financially.
If you do think that a retirement village could be the right move for your parents, here are my top tips for those people starting out on their research:
• Get your parents to make the move early. They shouldn’t wait for the move to be 'forced' on them and they should still be active enough to enjoy the community life.
• Make sure they plan to stay for the long term. Leaving a retirement village triggers most of the fees and charges that are applied during your tenure. Your parents will need time for the growth in the value of the unit to reduce the impact of these charges.
• Negotiate EVERYTHING! Many buyers don’t realise that retirement village purchase contracts can be negotiated, particularly in the current market where many retirement villages are struggling to make sales.
• Get good advice. Your parents will no doubt be spending a huge chunk of your inheritance on their retirement village unit. Paying an expert for their advice can not only save you money, but can give you the peace of mind that the contracts are in order and that you have received the best deal possible.
Above all, never make a rushed decision. Take your time and make sure you will feel comfortable in your new residence.
"Financially, your parents are almost always better off staying in their existing home. Buying and selling property incurs significant costs such as stamp duty, moving costs and agent’s commissions, which can take many years of capital growth to offset."