Should I Stay or Should I Go?

(Into a retirement community or aged care, or stay where I am?)

The English punk rock band – The Clash – weren’t thinking about their retirement options when they penned the classic song – Should I Stay or Should I Go? – in 1981, but with the band members now in their late 60s perhaps it is timely to consider this question with respect to this next life stage – for them and for us.

With the ongoing growth of the over 50s cohort in Australia there has been a significant increase in the breadth of options as we consider where and how we want to live in our golden years. Location options include the treechange, the sea change, the inner-city pad, the downsize, a multi-generation home or the retirement village amongst others.

But fundamentally at some point, the decision is – do we stay in our current abode or do we consider a shift to some form of retirement accommodation?

Things To Think About

For each of us weighing up these considerations will require some thought and research on what we want our future to look like.

Writing down a list of key factors in decision-making (both push and pull factors) is a helpful starting point:

  • How should my accommodation choices complement my current and future health needs?
  • Is co-location with an aged care or assisted living facility important?
  • Am I happy to continue to undertake (or pay others) to maintain my property? Or would I prefer a maintenance-free lifestyle?
  • Would I appreciate the chance to meet and interact with others at a similar life stage?
  • Do I want or need to be closer to amenities – be it walking or vehicle distances to key services such as shops and health services?
  • Is this a time to be moving closer to – or further away from my support network? (be it family, friends or health practitioners – GP and other specialists)?
  • Will my current dwelling suit my needs as I age or are their inherent issues (eg. stairs, small bathrooms or narrow circulation) that may inhibit my future ability to ‘age in place’?
  • What financial impact will any move have – be it on my living expenses or on my potential to increase wealth through capital gain (or decrease wealth as per some retirement village contracts)?
  • (If applicable) – is my thinking aligned with that of my partner?

But…Do You Have to Move?

But does a move even need to be considered? The last several years have seen a significant increase in Government funding for home care – with the model emphasising support for as many of us as possible to ‘age in place’. Subject to an assessment process Government support can vary from relatively low amounts of funds up to packages in excess of $50,000 per annum for home care. The Government website provides a range of helpful tools and case studies to assist in understanding the range of support available to us. This home care funding may be able to be used for a variety of options including:

  • home modifications to enable us to remain at home
  • domestic support such as cleaning and cooking
  • social support such as shopping, transport, and in-home respite
  • personal care services such as medication management, showering and continence management
  • round the clock care support (including overnight care).

A Very Personal Choice

In a recent conversation I had with a family member – Sue – she mentioned to me that her friends were asking if she had plans to move into a retirement village. Sue made it clear her preference was to remain in her own home, she loved her neighbours and local community but she was concerned about keeping up the maintenance on the home. We worked out that each year she stayed in her own home gave her an increase in capital value that more than offset the cost of the money she needed to spend on a gardener and a handyman to maintain her home. Sue has remained in her own home these past few years and is very happy with her decision.

Conversely one of Sue’s friends stated how much she enjoyed the opportunities that moving into a retirement village gave her in meeting new friends, not having to worry about upkeep of her older home and having an aged care facility located on the same site should she ever need it. She will pay a Deferred Management Fee upon exiting the retirement village but has factored this into her financial calculations.

In short, there is no one right answer and no simple answer. It is often a good idea to talk through these issues with trusted family or friends, potentially even someone a few years ahead of you in the process that can provide some wise counsel. It is important to consider all factors and get the right advice with respect to legal, financial, care, social and wellbeing matters in your decision making process to ensure you know when it’s time to stay and when its time to go!

Paul Bradley has worked in the aged and retirement sectors for 20 years and is currently Director of Bellona Care, a home care provider across the NDIS and aged sectors.

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