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What the over 60s should be looking for in retirement property

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With more choice than before, those approaching golden years must determine what best meets their changing needs

It is no secret that the 60-plus age group is becoming more independent and revolutionising the retirement property market. What may be less well known is that this secto is the biggest consumer age group in the world.

“It is forecast that by 2050 their numbers will have swelled by an additional billion, which means they will account for one in five of the population,” says Chris Cilliers, chief executive and principal of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in the Winelands.

“Armed with an increasingly higher spending power and growing share of overall income, they are quickly becoming key influencers for many corporations and industries.

“In the US they already spend more than millennials, the current key focus of most marketers, and this opens significant investment opportunities in industries from healthcare and biotech to real estate and leisure.”

A 2017 Gallup poll indicated 74% of employed adults planned to work past retirement age, not only out of financial need, but also because they’re not ready to stop being productive members of society.

“With estimates putting the current global value of the silver economy at $15trillion (about R220tn), Cilliers believes organisations positioned to meet this group’s core senior-centric needs will reap attractive returns in coming decades.

“One industry poised to benefit from this growing market is real estate as there is now more scope than before. The traditional concept of retirement accommodation, apartment block-styled old age homes offering little more than a roof over one’s head and three meals a day, falls far short of current needs and there is a serious shortfall of suitable options.

“Seniors are looking for a variety of housing options, including active lifestyle living, residential estates that also offer frail care options and upmarket urban apartments for downsizing.”

Cilliers says there is also a growing preference among retires for continuing to live in their own homes rather than assisted living communities, an emergent trend known as “ageing in place”.

Retirement is definitely not what it used to be, says Arthur Case, director of Evergreen Lifestyle. Boomers are working and living longer and want to remain engaged in the world of work.

“They are confident, optimistic and independent, and looking to make the next chapter of their lives rewarding and fulfilling. Conventional retirement is no longer an option and this requires flexible alternatives.”

Many are looking for flexible employment. Some need to work longer to supplement retirement savings while others want to give back to society to remain active, Case says.

Flexibility is key, and traditional retirement homes do not fit these requirements. “It is for these reasons retirement lifestyle estate developers are providing villages with far more flexibility,” says Case.

Modern retirement estates offer residents the adaptability to downscale their accommodation according to their changing needs. Many over-60s now find they do not have enough money saved for a traditional retirement, says Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group.

“At the same time, many people who were counting on staying in a corporate job to build their retirement funds are being retrenched in their 40s or 50s and forced to make another plan.”

The result, he says, is that an increasing number of people over 50 are not “winding down”, but instead seeking to beef up their educational qualifications or reskill entirely so they can forge a second career or start a business that will take them through to 70 or even 80.

“Such decisions are more often than not accompanied by a desire for a change of lifestyle and a new home. With their children grown and a new career or business on the horizon, we see an increasing number of middle-aged people selling their family houses and moving to more secure and easily managed properties.”

Second career buyers should preferably also choose homes which will allow them to age in place if they want to do so without making too many changes, Kotzé says.

Useful design features to look out for in this regard are flat, open layouts without too many stairs, non-slip bathroom and kitchen flooring, easy-to-open doors and windows, accessible kitchen cabinets, lower light switches and plug points and at least one shower with sturdy handrails.

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