As more than 500 retirement living leaders gathered at the Gold Coast, a test of the industry’s pulse reveals that national occupancy nears capacity and senior Australians face a shortage of age-appropriate housing.

The annual National Retirement Living Summit wrapped up in Queensland earlier this week, with the industry’s heavyweights recommitting to the Retirement Living 8-Point Plan.

The blueprint to lift standards and improve transparency is already delivering dividends, said President Alison Quinn.

Launching consultation on a new Retirement Living Code of Conduct, Quinn reminded the audience that the retirement living sector provided a “great experience for our residents”, but there was room to improve.

The Property Council’s chief executive Ken Morrison told the audience that the Eight Point Plan was not “window dressing” but “a mark of an industry that is committed to addressing the issues that exist, and returning trust to the secto”.

“It’s a substantive response focused on a deep commitment to transparency and professionalisation,” Morrison said.“Disruption” was the hot topic during the two days.

Canadian innovator Shirlee Sharkey advised Australia’s movers and shakers to ride the waves of disruption by “focusing on the problem you’re trying to solve instead of the gadget you’re using”.

Demographer Bernard Salt’s message was to banish the phrase “retirement living” from the lexicon altogether, while social researcher Neer Korn shared his insights into why Baby Boomers are ageing disgracefully.

ThomsonAdsett’s David Lane got excited about digital technology’s role in helping seniors “stay put but stay connected”.

Australia’s Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO left us with a lingering thought: The climate we set now will be the climate we inherit when we get older.

CoreLogic’s Logan Lincoln pointed to a future of autonomous vehicles, robots and bitcoin. Within five years, aerial drones will monitor our world, AI will manage our interactions, buildings will talk, houses won’t need garages and mortgages will come from the crowd, he said.

While this brave new world may be a few years away, the latest PwC/Property Council Retirement Census points to a looming shortage of age-appropriate housing for senior Australians in their local communities.

The Census, released on Monday, finds increasing numbers of older Australians are choosing to live in a retirement village.

But retirement villages across the nation were almost at their practical capacity of 93 per cent occupancy throughout 2016.

The 65-plus population is set to grow by five million in the next 40 years, and without changes to state planning policy, “we are facing an imminent capacity crisis”, argued the Property Council’s executive director – Retirement Living, Ben Myers.

According to PwC’s real estate advisory partner Tony Massaro, the census underscores why retirement village accommodation is an affordable option.

“The national average entry price for a two-bedroom unit is at $424,000. This is almost one third less than the median house price in the same postcode,” Massaro said.

Retirement living leading lights rewarded

Also on Monday, retirement living sector’s best and brightest were applauded at the inaugural National Retirement Living Awards.

The awards combine two long-running industry programs with four brand new categories showcasing achievement in design, marketing, innovation and refurbishment.

Winners included St Luke’s Green in Brisbane, taking home the inaugural nettletontribe Award for Design Excellence, for a retirement and residential aged care home centred around a church. Greengate’s innovative approach has reinvigorated the parish and delivered new economic benefits to the church and immediate surrounds.

The Village Retirement Group won the inaugural Wise Agency Award for Marketing Excellence for its partnership with Anglicare to sell Brisbane’s The Village Taigum. The marketing campaign was highly commended for demographic research that targeted a significant population living within six kilometres of the Taigum site.

Ryan Lane (pictured) took out the Ingenia Communities Future Retirement Living Leader of the Year. Lendlease’s regional development manager for NSW and the ACT was commended for his innovative design skills and talent for relationship building with residents.

The inaugural CSR Hebel Award for Innovation went to the Bethanie Gwelup Aged Care and Assisted Living Campus in Western Australia for its use of technology.

Stockland’s Somerton Park Retirement Village in Adelaide, originally constructed in the 1970s for war widows, was presented with the inaugural Ignite Architects Award for Best Refurbishment.

And former Army soldier and police officer won the National Programmed Village Manager of the Year. Terry Byway, manager of Lendlease’s Buderim Gardens Retirement Village on the Sunshine Coast has worked as a retirement village manager since 2010, using his invaluable leadership and team building skills to great effect in village communities.

According to Myers, the awards highlight the “terrific work” being done to ensure a positive retirement living experience for nearly 200,000 senior Australians.

“Retirement communities are proven to improve people’s wellbeing and extend their independence, reducing their reliance on health and care services, while enabling people to stay active in communities that care,” Myers concludes.

This article was originally published on The Property Council of Australia

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