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When and how to have the ‘next step’ talk’

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Modern mature-lifestyle villages place the well-being and contentment of their resident firsts, and so usually allow pets and emphasise the importance of home-based medical care rather than frail-care facilities

Moving into a retirement facility can be a tricky topic to broach, particularly with elderly people who do not feel they need to be cared for.

This can often lead to friction in families, with adult children and their parents at opposite ends of the discussion.

Even though modern retirement villages cater for active retirees – and even those still in their 50s – the discussions can be difficult. Kevin Swart of Cenprop Real Estate, developers of Lazuli Coastal Retirement Estate on the KZN North Coast, says, fortunately, multi-generational estates with pocket villages for retirees are becoming more popular.

Such estates allow people to live separately within the same estate but still have easy access to family members for socialising and all-important babysitting. In most instances, though, this multi-generational living will not be an option and so retirees and their families will need to make a decision in the best interests of everyone.

Knowing when it is time to make the move

Phil Barker, managing director of Renishaw Property Developments, developers of Renishaw Hills in KZN, says it is a very subjective decision and one that is often taken when loved ones’ health starts to fail.

His experience is that the vast majority of people leave it later than they should. “The increase in stress levels of moving home is directly proportional to the age of the mover. Everyone handles stress differently, so this is not a universal law, but moving at 65 is generally far less stressful than moving home at 75. One needs to be proactive and understand that age-related illnesses come upon one suddenly.

“The retiring baby-boomer generation is more proactive in this regard and there are more and more people moving into mature lifestyle villages in their late 50s and early 60s, which is the ideal time, remembering that modern villages cater for an active lifestyle.”

While agreeing that this is a “very personal matter”, Rob Jones, retirement-living consultant to The Somerset Lifestyle and Retirement Village in the Western Cape, says one should watch out for one or more of the following warning signs:

◆ Living alone is not necessarily a problem, however, living alone in a location that is not secure is a concern

◆ If the activities of daily living are proving more difficult, consider a move to a location that offers slowly increasing services like laundry, cleaning, shopping, personal care and garden maintenance.

Approaching the subject with elderly parents

The issue is a sensitive one for many people and so everyone approaches it differently. While honesty is the best policy, Jones says families often mistakenly push their parents into situations that are not optimal for them but are rather in their own best interests.

This needs to be avoided. “It helps to visit the village yourself first and become acquainted with the facilities and staff. If you would be happy to live there, your parents most likely will too.”

He advises adult children to prepare a comparison of their current situation versus what it will be like when they are in the village – a “balance sheet” that contains all the pros and cons – not just the financial matters.

Barker suggests families encourage elderly loved ones to visit friends or relatives who have made the move.

“Current residents of mature-lifestyle villages are their brand ambassadors.”

Living with family or in a retirement village

While, again, every person’s personal circumstances are different, Barker says that generally speaking, no one likes being seen as being dependent on others.

“Residents of mature-lifestyle/retirement villages have their independence as the facilities and community life revolve around this requirement. “It is the loss of independence which most people find demeaning.”

Living with family has been done for centuries but the challenge for older people, Jones says, is understanding that the home is not their own. For adult children, the challenge is making their parents feel “at home”.

“Unfortunately, because family members know each other so well, there is the risk that they take each other for granted and expect unreasonable things of each other,” he adds.

Choosing the right village

Barker advises prospective purchasers to visit at least five villages to make comparisons. “We propose that the prospective purchaser draws up a comprehensive list of questions that should be satisfactorily answered by the salesperson. The list will be long but should always start with security, which is absolutely paramount.”

He says a wall or electrified fence and gatehouse are not sufficient. “Security must include 24/7 CCTV monitoring of the fence line in a professionally operated control room with an armed response back-up. Thermal cameras are always preferable to optical.”

Other questions to ask relate to health-care provision, the monthly levy and what it covers, community life and facilities, and the financial strength of the body corporate. Buyers must obviously also check that prices and payment options suit their budgets, Barker says.

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