The many extracts on these pages are from copyright material. They are owned by the reference given or its owner. They are reproduced here for educational purposes and to stimulate public debate about the provision of health and aged care. I consider this to be "fair use" in the common interest. They should not be reproduced for commercial purposes. The material is selective and I have not included denials and explanations. I am not claiming that the allegations are true. The intention is to show the general thrust of corporate practices as well as the nature and extent of any allegations made.

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Introductory page
This corporate web site addresses the issues of corporate health care within a broad framework. A web page describing this broad context should be considered as an introduction to each page on the web site. If you have not yet read it then
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Content of this page
This page traces the history of retirement villages as the focus shifts away from serving the needy to meeting the luxuries demanded by the wealthy. Services provided by the community are being replaced by commercial packages from the marketplace. Links are provided to pages describing a few of the companies involved.

 Australian section   

Retirement Villages
in Australia




This is a long page with multiple extracts illustrating a confusing number of perspective's and developments. This overview aims to provide focus by putting it within a broad overall context.

From a community service to a market
Retirement villages like health care and nursing homes were once the province of not for profit community operators. They had a very different approach to caring for the elderly. They concentrated on serving the needy but provided services to the wealthy to supplement this.

Largely as a consequence of government policy care by the community has been turned into a marketplace with market listed and private for profit operators dominating the thinking in the sector. Not only has the pattern of operation changed but the for profit sector has increased its stake from 25% of the sector to 50%.

The baby boomer bonanza
The market has seen the aging population as a bonanza. The potential profits from wealthy baby boomers has driven the enthusiasm and the rhetoric. Whether the enthusiastic view of this generation is valid, or whether their marketing will ensure that the luxurious lifestyle they promote is what aging baby boomers will embrace remains to be seen.

In practice this wealthy group is a minority and most retirees have more limited resources or are pensioners. As a consequence some in the sector have been disappointed and express less enthusiasm. Some have struggled.

Profit from pensioners
In a bizarre aberration market thinkers have waxed lyrical about the potential for taking large profits from the meager resources of government pensioners. A number of companies enthusiatically developed and marketed a rental model to make money out of these pensioners by renting them facilities in return for the bulk of their pensions. This model was fatally flawed and these companies were soon in trouble. The poor had other uses for their limited pensions. These companies have been forced to change their rental policies to service those with more money. They are marketing the rental of their units as an economically wise choice for those with adequate security.

Throughout all the rhetoric and market hype there has been little attention paid to the real plight of the less well off citizens for whom as a caring community we should be concerned - least of all from government. The not for profit operators have to pick up the pieces.

Banks and trusts
As the providers of retirement services have struggled, the banks and financiers have moved into the sector. They have shielded themselves from risk by forming a plethora of interconnected trusts owning the facilities where most of the investment resides. They lease the facilities to for profit operators who carry all the risk and can be replaced if they go under or fail to generate the profitability demanded by the trust.

The ultimate decision makers and the commercial forces are well separated from the actual provision of services. The financial managers are consequently in a position to insist on whatever it takes to generate a profit while remaining shielded from the consequences.

Vulnerable residents
Because of their age and because they often enter a village after a period of crisis in their lives, the residents are more vulnerable than other citizens. In most cases they are required to sign a complex contract which many have difficulty in understanding. There has been considerable concern about the nature of these contracts and the financial exploitation which has resulted. There have been court cases and attempts to legislate to protect citizens.

The companies
This web page briefly outlines the nature of the operations of a selection of retirement village companies and provides links to web pages that examine their activities.

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From Community to Market

Care of the more vulnerable aging population starts with retirement homes. Once largely the province of government and not-for-profit church and community groups, there has been a rapid increase in private and public for profit corporations. These now own and run about half of all retirement villages in Australia.

Corporations have been encouraged by governments which have seen the market as a way of extricating themselves from their responsibilities to all citizens.

The pace of corporatisation of retirement villages is increasing rapidly. Most of that increase is focussed on the wealthy who can look after themselves and less on those who actually need assistance. Attempts to focus on the needy have not been profitable.

Corporations target the younger and wealthier senior citizens - those wanting a luxury lifestyle. In all the hullabaloo about profitability, the interests of those who need retirement services because they have difficulty in coping in the community and can't aford help have been ignored.

Jul 2004 Looking back

The first villages were built and run by not-for-profit organisations. The industry was then opened up to developers, who got tax breaks because demand was rising faster than supply.
The village choice The Sydney Morning Herald July 28, 2004

Apr 2005 Government driving the process

In April, the Hogan Report into aged care commissioned by the Federal Government highlighted the need for serious reform.

The report recommended increased private sector participation in an industry historically dominated by not-for-profit organisations.
Aged care offers healthy growth Australian Financial Review April 6, 2005

There is of course nothing wrong with people who have the resources paying for a better life and for their retirement. What is wrong is that this has created a babble of economic words and a smokescreen of activity behind which those responsible for the less robust elderly can shelter. The behaviour of these corporations also gives an insight into the way corporations behave when they see money in the vulnerable. The change is well illustrated by many press extracts documenting what happened.

Nov 1989 Spectrum of services 16 years ago

Two thirds of Australia's estimated 600-plus villages are owned by churches, building societies and friendly societies, with the remainder private enterprises.
VILLAGES EXPAND AS BABY BOOMERS AGE Australian Financial Review November 22, 1989

Feb 1992 Government drives "wrinklie-ranching"

It's an appeal which has been accelerating since the early 1970s when the Federal Government abolished its scheme of capital grants to "charity" retirement homes run by church and club and council, leaving the field open to private enterprise. Since then care and compassion have become less important than cash flow and capital gain, according to the industry's many critics.
In NSW alone, about 100 other development companies have jumped onto the bandwagon in the past decade or so, one or two going broke, but most making (at least until recently) whopping profits. Apart from Gandel, the other big boys of what has been insensitively called "wrinklie-ranching" are Jennings, Corporate Equity, Milstern, and Baldwin Care.
CAUGHT IN THE WEB OF RETIREMENT VILLAGES Sydney Morning Herald February 12, 1992

Jun 1995 Changes introduced by government in 1989

Retirement villages were originally the sole domain of government agencies and charitable organisations and the involvement of private developers in the industry is a relatively new phenomenon. The industry as a whole was not covered by its own legislation until the Retirement Village Act and the Retirement Village Industry Code of Practice were introduced in 1989.
Retirement Village Row Goes To Supreme Court Sydney Morning Herald June 8, 1995

Mar 1997 For profit gaining ground

Catering for the boomers, and their relatively high purchasing power, the private sector has established about 325 resident-funded villages nationally compared to about 400 which have been established through donations.

Donor-funded villages are run by churches and other philanthropic organisations and have been in existence for at least 30 years. But in private sector villages, a resident buys a home unit up-front, pays weekly fees and signs a deferred management fee agreement, payable on departure.
Chronic Case / Retired Hurt The Australian March 29, 1997

Dec 2003 The changing distribution of villages

Today the total retirement village sector is worth $12 billion, with around half of the market in private sector hands and the remainder owned by charitable, not-for profit organisations, according to FKP Australian Retirement Homes chief executive Charles MacDonald.
Watch The Boom As These Babies Age Australian Financial Review December 13, 2003

Jul 2004 In econobabble "What the market will pay" and "choice" replace the word "need"

"The industry has changed a great deal since the early days," Cerexhe says. "It is regulated and people have higher expectations. Developers will now go to great lengths in terms of what they will provide - freestanding houses, villas, units, townhouses. There is no limit to the number of configurations developers will put together trying to work out what the market will pay."
The Retirement Villages Act came into effect in 1986. It is state legislation, reviewed recently in NSW and under review in Victoria, says an ALP backbencher and the member for Mt Waverley (Vic), Maxine Morand.

"The industry here is evolving and the act has not been reviewed since 1986," Morand says. "There is a lot more private involvement in development and a much bigger range of developments, which is good because people have choice."
The village choice The Sydney Morning Herald July 28, 2004

Apr 2005 A 50-50 split

In the retirement living sector, a number of for-profit companies are joining the charity and church groups that have traditionally dominated, to position themselves in this growing market.

It is estimated that the for-profit groups currently make up around 50 per cent of the $12 billion of investment in retirement villages.
Greater life expectancy likely to bring solid returns Sun Herald April 17, 2005

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Not-for-profit Retirement Villages

Not for profit organisations sought to meet a community need, raising money and providing services as best they could. They favoured the needy but, as in not for profit hospitals, they also served those who could pay by building complexes for them. Profits were redirected to the needy

They provided services and security for those whose physical and mental abilities were declining but who did not merit nursing home care. Many also ran nursing homes, often on the same campus. The residents had the security of future access to a nursing home - perhaps with the still healthy spouse visiting from the adjacent village.

The more affluent sometimes funded the building of a unit and had the use of that unit until they died. It then reverted to the not-for-profit owner for use by those in need - a form of charity.

Not for profit villages were sometimes jokingly referred to as God’s Waiting room - an image fixed in the mind by the British TV comedy "Waiting For God". Corporate advertorials now exploit this nagative image by contrasting it with the luxury resorts they are marketing to the public.

Not for profits do not have ready access to capital and with the secularisation of our society are less able to raise money from their congregations. They increasingly depend on government handouts and this limits their ability to expand, compete or to criticise.

In corporate retirement villages those looking for money go after the wealthy self funded retirees. Not for profits lose an important source of funding.

The dilemmas faced by not for profit community focussed organizations when forced to operate in a competitive corporate marketplace are dealt with on another page.

Mar 1990 The rich and the poor

Most retirement units are provided by church and charities on the loan and licence basis: you lend the church an interest-free sum in return for occupancy for life, and the church keeps the capital increase. Alternatively you get all the capital gain on a unit, or only part of it. Some complexes require a deferred payment of 2.5 per cent of the capital cost for 10 years.
The St Vincent Home for the Aged, unlike Fernbank, is not commercially operated, resident-funded or strata titled. Residents pay rents of less than $90 a fortnight, including electricity. Today churches and charities are beginning to provide the costlier accommodation as a way of generating funds for more charitable works.
Little has changed for those who are both old and poor, owning neither home nor income beyond the pension. Tom Lambert says: "An upmarket retirement village is the best lifestyle possible for old people. For this group life has never been so good. Yet increasing numbers of elderly people are living not much better than street kids."

At the other end of the spectrum from Golden Ponds and the Shalimar Country Club is the Matthew Talbot Hostel, where the waiting list, too, is always long.
GREY LIBERATION IN GOD'S WAITING ROOMS Sydney Morning Herald March 31, 1990

Jan 1994 A different approach

Non-profit independent living units funded by government are owned by charities and churches. They have more limited and generally old-fashioned accommodation, cost less to enter, with fees often means-tested, and generally return full entry contributions when a resident leaves.
The Time Of Their Lives Sunday Age January 2, 1994

May 2002 For the rich and the poor

Linda Jackson, assistant CEO of the Royal Australian Air Force Association Estates, said people were lining up to live in the RAAF villages because they resembled resorts.

"Some of our centres have had people on waiting lists for up to a year," she said.

Hydrotherapy pools, tennis courts, exercise classes and social clubs were big drawcards.

Although some of the RAAF village residents are self-funded retirees, the RAAF Association is a charitable organisation that offers means-tested care.

Serviced apartments start at $65,000 and ongoing costs are, on average, 30 per cent of the pension plus rental assistance, where applicable.
Retirement, resort-style. Sunday Times (Perth) May 5, 2002

Dec 2002 Not for profit history

Churches set up the first modern retirement villages in Australia in the 1950s, and they and other not-for-profit organisations, such as the RSL, account for about 40% of Australia's 60,000 retirement units. Calculating the number of villages in the not-for-profit sector is difficult, because villages and aged-care facilities are often linked. The Uniting Church and Anglicare are the biggest not-for-profit operators.
Retirement villages as good as gold Business Review Weekly December 5, 2002

Jun 2005 Rental accommodation

Besides retirement villages, Western Australia's community organisation Swancare also provides rental accommodation in which residents do not have to pay an upfront lump sum or ongoing DMF. The low income resident only pays a rental and service fee. The rental contract can be terminated at anytime.
Pitch for retiring types The Australian June 25, 2005

Feb 2006 Summarising it

There are two basic types of village: those operated by private companies and those operated by non-profit organisations for which entry is based on need and costs are funded or subsidised.
Village life is not for all Herald-Sun February 11, 2006

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For Profit Corporations and the Needy

To serve the needy not-for-profits have required government subsidies. To these they have added charitable donations, fees from wealthier residents, and payments from poorer residents’ pensions. They have provided homely services - often in old buildings.

One corporate model sought to profit by serving the poorer sectors of the population and taking profits from their pensions. We might call this the vamire model. How corporate Australia thought they could build new complexes, provide acceptable services and still make a profit from the limited resident’s pension is difficult to understand.

Nothing is as persuasive as belief and the smell of money. This is the group of people for whose retirement the government had some responsibility and they were exercising that responsibility through the marketplace. They should have had more sense!

The entrepreneurs calculated that if they took the bulk of the residents aged care pension as well as the accommodation allowance they could make a healthy profit. Their calculations were flawed. They also ignored the social dynamics of this population group.

The market believed them. We should not doubt that this was a genuine if wishful attempt to meet the needs of the community using the corporate market model.

Two companies Village Life and Community Life adopted this model. Analysts were enthusiastic about the prospects and the vast potential of this model in light of the growing aging population. Share floats were soon oversubscribed.

Apr 2003 The market perspective

Tamara Williams, associate director Westpac Property Advisory and Equities, said investors saw the (Village Life) trust as a chance to join those drawing value from an increasingly important and expanding market.
"Given Australia's ageing population, and the subsequent increase in housing demand to satisfy this market, investors reacted positively to the opportunity to invest in this sector," Williams said. "The attraction of these complexes is that there is no up-front capital required to become a resident. The residents are party to a residential tenancy agreement by which they pay rent that is calculated as a proportion of their pension income."
Property - Commercial Property - Investing in the aged takes a leap. The Sydney Morning Herald April 12, 2003

It took less than a year for the flaws in this tightly calculated model to reveal themselves. The costs of building increased much more rapidly than anticipated and it was impossible to increase the rent. Those on government pensions were in no hurry to abandon their life style to adopt that offered by these companies. They probably baulked at losing 85% of their pension in return for better accommodation - so cutting into the money they spent on their life styles. The companies fell well short of the 95% occupancy on which their calculations were based.

Jun 2005 The problem

But, if Village Life survives in its current form, will their scheme continue to be attractive? One criticism of the financing mechanism is that it leaves very little disposable income left over for residents.
Crunch time for Village Life The Courier-Mail June 6, 2005

Currently both of the companies adopting this model are in serious trouble and are attempting to restructure their business model.

To live at the bottom of the social pile requires much more modest accommodation than these companies are able to provide. A 1996 article explains.

Feb 1996 Affordable retirement for pensioners

Even at the lower end of the retirement lifestyle scale, as at Willow Lodge,Dandenong, Mr Scott Elliott knows the needs of the aged.

Willow Lodge is entirely made up of relocatable homes, and Mr Elliott makes no bones about it, community life here is priced for the less well-off.

As he says, not everyone reaches retirement age with substantial superannuation benefits waiting for them, and he lays it on the table by stating that most people would be surprised at how many folk get to 65 years of age with absolutely nothing in the way of financial security.
''At Willow Lodge we charge $70 a week for maintenance and services, and most people would be able to claim half of that back on social security.

''So this is a viable way for them to retire. This is what you might call the affordable end of the retirement resident scene and although I guess we would all like to live in luxury in our senior years, it simply is not possible for everyone, just as not everyone owns a Mercedes in their working or career years or always has pockets stuffed with money.
Scott Elliott runs Willow Lodge for the family company, which has similar relocatable home retirement villages in other areas of Victoria, in Queensland and NSW.

His father started the business after a career in house building and a trip to the west coast of the US to see relocatable home villages there.
Varied Temptations Of Village Life Sunday Age February 25, 1996

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Village Life

Village Life was the largest of the companies targeting poor pensioners. Analysts glowed about its prospects and the share float was oversubscribed. The model was fatally and obviously flawed. Management was not up to the task. The company was soon in trouble. Strong support and the assumption of control by ING bank did not resolve the contradictions in the business model. Bankruptcy seemed likely. The company was rescued by financiers and an accountant was put in charge. The board was replaced and a new business model targeted those with money.

The founders had set out to use market mechanisms to serve the poor but when this was not profitable the market dispensed with them and went for the money. What the consequences for the current pensioner residents will be remains to be seen.

Update Sept 2008:- Village Life was involved with MFS in a scandal involving the eviction of unprofitable elderly persioners. It has sold its retirement village management business to SCV and no longer operates retirement villages.

Click Here to examine the Village Life story

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Community Life

Community Life followed a similar pie in the sky model and its board was soon in conflict. It has formed a trust, is restructuring, and is probably looking around for someone with deep pockets to help it. It is also looking for another business model. One analyst was particularly scathing about its prospectus - in retrospect.

Click Here to examine the Community Life story


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Villa World

Another company Villa World gave up the luxury retirement villages to concentrate on the genuinely needy - the 80 year old plus group who live in assisted living. Villa World owned 70% of Guardian Group which owned 6 retirement homes. In 2006 Villa World merged with the Gold Coast’s MFS Diversified Trust. MFS was buying into Village Life and was closely allied with PrimeLife.

Aug 2005 Villa World

The chief executive of the Queensland property developer Villa World, Brent Hailey, says his company sold out of retirement villages about five years ago. "The company had a portfolio of something like 600 units. But we realised at that point that unless we got to about 2500 or 3000 units it would not be viable. The administration costs and requirements meant that we still had to employ the same number of people for 600 units as we would have for 3000 units."
Villa World has instead concentrated on the aged-care market, aimed at 80-year-olds and over who live in assisted living. Much of the income in that market comes from government contributions.
A tough old market BRW August 4, 2005

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For Profit Corporations and the Wealthy Boomers

This is one of the sectors most influenced by the pot of gold they see in the aging of Australia.

Most of the for profit companies are property developers who have retirement divisions or who have switched their operations to this sector. Some of these developers have been building luxury resorts to pander to the wealthy baby boomers during holiday periods. They now want to do this on a permanent basis and make lots more money.

In building retirement villages they accepted a long term commitment to manage the villages. The nature of the business means that they are deferring the bulk of their profits for several years until the resident dies or enters a nursing home when the profit is taken.

Nov 1989 The baby boomers identified

Put simply, people are living longer and the baby boomers born in the post-war period 1947 to 1961 are not replacing themselves. Twenty per cent of baby boomers have no children at all, while another 25 per cent have only one child.
"Baby boomers are highly materialistic, are into health, leisure and lifestyle and in the next 20 years will have the numbers to get what they want-the best," Dr Heenan said.

Most newly constructed villages are already approaching this ideal, providing bowling greens, putting greens, croquet lawns, swimming pools and spas, touring clubs, arts and craft facilities as well as 24-hour on-call service and access to some level of nursing.
It is typical for the operator to set a deferred management fee at death or at the time of resale by the purchaser at 2.5 per cent of the purchase price per year - normally with an upper limit of 25 per cent of the purchase price in addition to the normal weekly service fee of about $45.
Profit is usually taken as capital gain.
VILLAGES EXPAND AS BABY BOOMERS AGE Australian Financial Review November 22, 1989

May 2002 The change

As Australia's population ages, retirement villages that resemble God's waiting room are being replaced with resort-style accommodation akin to a five-star hotel.
General manager of Fini Villages Chris Harrison said: "A 70 year old today has a vastly different lifestyle compared to a 70 year old 10 years ago. Most of the people who move into our villages want a low-maintainence lifestyle with smaller gardens and fewer rooms to clean."

Downsizing was the main reason Joyce Shepherd, 73, moved to Fini's Harbourside Village.
Retirement, resort-style. Sunday Times (Perth) May 5, 2002

Jun 2002 The new market

St Ives Group director Ray Fitzgerald said retirement living had to change with the times to suit the new older Australians.

"Retirement is no longer about living like a churchmouse and leaving everything to your kids," he said.
"People who live in a retirement village can pack up and go away for two months and don't have to worry about their home," he said.
Retirement villages are also providing the services older people need to stay in their own homes longer.
Lifestyle comes first. Sunday Times (Perth) June 23, 2002

Aug 2002 Spending the kids inheritance

Doug McTaggart, an economist and the chief executive of the Queensland Investment Corporation, said research suggested that baby boomers were not that keen on leaving assets for their children.
Retiring baby boomers to set the pace. The West Australian August 14, 2002

Developers believe they know what sort of retirement the boomers want. But the boomers are only just entering the retirement sector. One wonders to what extent the market's picture of the boomers is one created by their own enthusiasm. Boomers don't seem to speak for themselves. They are also the first of the generations to be enmeshed in mass marketing. To what extent are their likes and dislikes determined by this marketing and how susceptible are they to it? The markets prescription for them may be self fulfilling but could this luxuriously sterile environment ultimately turn them off? Probably not!

Corporate success depends on corporate salesmen selling boomers a lifestyle which is profitable for the companies. It is possible that the boomers may turn out to have ideas of their own. One suspects that their wealth is overblown and large numbers will still be budget conscious. Others may relish greater independence. Perhaps they will recognise their mortality and want that on site nursing home to be readily available.

Jan 1994 Starting to package retirement

Enter the retirement village, a pre-packaged lifestyle bought from an enterprising developer that aims to give the over-60s what we all want _ company, comfort, and meaning _ by selling them a unit in a world of unequalled artifice.

Buy into our landscaped courts and we'll sell you neighbors who drop in for a cup of tea instead of leaving a tricycle on the footpath. Pay up for an emergency call button in your unit, and we'll guarantee you a suburb too tough for a would-be burglar. Move in to our compact units and enjoy a community centre packed with activities so you don't have time to be bored or lonely.
The Time Of Their Lives Sunday Age January 2, 1994

Jun 2004 Investment flavour of the month

Not surprisingly, the retirement village sector appears to be shaping up as the next "investment flavour of the month" just brimming with opportunity for everyone to make money even though only 3 per cent of Australians over 65 now choose this residential option rather than continue to live at home.
Grey Money The Courier-Mail June 12, 2004

Dec 2003 The baby boomers' boom

There are big opportunities for investors and developers in the coming retirement accommodation boom, as the baby boomers enter old age. Retirement, though, won't look like it does today.

Pick the demographic trend and make a fortune. On this premise plenty of investors and developers have their eye trained on the near future when the wave of baby boomers finally tumble from the sexual revolution into the slightly more chaste confines of the retirement home.

The villages for the ageing are on the verge of a boom.

And with the baby boomers' penchant for harnessing the good things in life, the next generation of retirement accommodation is likely to be modelled on Club Med for the over 70s, with a focus on remaining active and social, according to the analysts.
Watch The Boom As These Babies Age Australian Financial Review December 13, 2003

Jul 2004 Property boom

The growth in demand for these properties is not surprising given the country's ageing population. Mirvac, FKP Properties and the private Rosecorp group are among many developers offering these developments to investors and owner/occupiers.
Old folks homes are not so easy The Sydney Morning Herald July 17, 2004

Jul 2004 Luxury for younger retirees

The development has a gym, spa, 18-hole championship golf course and tennis courts, bowls, walking trails and community tearooms - everything you could want in a holiday resort. But it is not a resort. It is a retirement village for over 55-year-olds, with money to spend.
Retirement villages are about "independent living", with a little extra support or help, and usually a lot less household maintenance. The Council on the Ageing Victoria says a village can provide older residents with a secure environment and the companionship of contemporaries.
The village choice The Sydney Morning Herald July 28, 2004

Jun 2005 Two views on retirement

Topfer at B&B says the biggest profit margins are from developing luxury retirement homes for the top end of the well-heeled and well-to-do baby boomers who want silver service in a five-star setting.

Jim Hazel, managing director of Prime Life, is gunning for a market that sells retirement units worth between $200,000 for a one-bedder to over $1 million.
"So about two to three years ago, we started to look at some of the retirement options around Perth and many were just too expensive for us. We chose Bentley Park run by Swancare, because two of our best friends were living there and it was an ideal solution, as the village also incorporates a nursing home which offers low and high-care facilities.

"This means that if one of us eventually fell ill or became too frail and needed nursing care, it would only be a short walk from our one-bedroom unit."
Pitch for retiring types The Australian June 25, 2005

Jul 2005 Investors see a new breed of retirees

The days of hostel living are numbered. The new face of aged housing is chrome and glass with panoramic views.
"Baby boomers are straddling the peak income time in their lives. They're a wealthy generation and have accumulated wealth principally via their properties," Mr Salt says. "The current lot of retirees are easily contented people; they don't expect a lot in material terms and they believe in old Australian values of building up assets and passing them on to children.
"The baby boomers are a different life form. They are less frugal and more inclined to spend all their money on themselves."
While most developments report strong sales, there are early indications that high-rises may encounter resistance from a generation of retirees unaccustomed to apartment living.
Dr Edgar argues that elderly men feel claustrophobic in apartments because they lack space to pursue hobbies and interests.
"Once you get to the baby boomers, there won't be a problem," Ms Clancy says.

"They have experienced a more cosmopolitan lifestyle compared to the veterans we see coming into our retirement villages now."
Baby boomers retire in style Sunday Age July 31, 2005

Developers market retirement resorts to younger and fitter people starting as young as 55, knowing that those quite a bit older will not want to be left out. Most profit comes when the resident leaves. Some reports suggest that more money is made from older residents as they die sooner.

Jun 2004 More profit in dying

"I was 67 when I came and can probably be expected to live for another 15 years here, but they (FKP) really don't want that," he muses philosophically.

"The money is really in people dying. It's as simple as that because the quicker the turnover the more they make."
Grey Money The Courier-Mail June 12, 2004

In adopting this model of luxury retirement Australia has once again followed the USA. What they are selling is a luxury life style.

Mar 1990 Following the USA

IT WAS the United States, of course, which conjured up the concept of the"retirement village" - self-contained settlements in sunny California or Florida peopled entirely by woopies (well-off older persons), glams (greying, leisured, middle-aged spenders) and jollies (jet-setting oldies with lots of loot). Today some of those villages are actually more like large towns, with as many as 15,000 to 18,000 units, protected from the outside crime wave by barbed wire and high walls.
Now the trend is being copied in Australia, though not on the same lavish scale. Over the past 10 years such establishments have mushroomed in places like Mona Vale, and no-one doubts that it is a growth industry. A mere one per cent of over 65s may live in Australian retirement villages in 1990, but few of the commercial developers are thinking any smaller than an eventual 20 per cent to match the US.
GREY LIBERATION IN GOD'S WAITING ROOMS Sydney Morning Herald March 31, 1990

Jul 2004 Still following the USA

In the United States, where the industry has boomed, there are entire towns made up of retirees. Sun City in Arizona, where the climate is temperate all year round, has almost 60,000 residents, all over 55 years of age, living in a 3600 hectare "retirement village". Stimson says that Florida has a large number of serviced apartments, run by hotels, aimed at the over-55 market.

In Australia villages have developed on a much smaller scale and offer a range of services.
The village choice The Sydney Morning Herald July 28, 2004

The retirement village industry has had its ups and downs. There was a very bad period during and after the economic recession of the 1980s

1997 Review of bad times in the late 1980s

CONFIDENCE in the retirement village industry slumped so low in the early part of this decade that most banks would not lend money to developers wanting to build.

The TV advertising of the 1980s that had promoted retirement villages as resort-like communities for the aged had stopped.
This loss of faith has led to five years of under-investment in retirement housing by major private and public organisations.
"Governments are not going to provide more housing and many existing facilities are sub-standard.

"It is up to the private sector, but this time it will not be driven by the builders and property developers as it was in the 70s and 80s.

"A lot went wrong in the past because the village builders did not have an interest in becoming aged-care providers."

The industry needed to understand that an investment in a retirement village was the beginning of a service not the end of a property transaction.
Chronic Case / Retired Hurt The Australian March 29, 1997

Few are thinking of co-located nursing homes and few luxury villages build or run them. Once seen as a plus they now create a negative image. The market is targeting the baby boomers and they are seen as wanting to live the high life for ever. Decrepitude and death are best out of site and out of mind.

Companies are now strongly supported by the share market and the banks. Raising capital is not a problem, especially if you sell yourself to a bank.

Not only is the population of retirement villages increasing because of population changes but younger and healthier people who would previously never have dreamed of entering a retirement village are persuaded to swell their ranks. This makes management of the complex easier and less expensive.

One of the consequences is that the wealthier and healthier sections of the populations are funnelled into the for-profit villages. These are the people who would previously have paid the not-for-profits for retirement care and helped them to service the needy.

Press reports are flooded with glowing market analyses, and advertorials for luxury complexes. The plight of those of more modest means and those who cannot afford to pay their way is hardly noticed. They are the majority. This is where the "need" is. Market analysts don't know the difference between "need" and "demand". The use the words interchangeably

Middle and lower marjrket

A major University of Queensland study of 5000 residents in 109 retirement villages has shown the majority of retirement living demand is at the middle to lower end of the market.
Boomers head for a hi-tech sunset. Courier Mail June 11, 2001

Financial institutions, particularly the banks have taken an ever greater interest. They fund the retirement property developers who often wait 7-10 years for profits and the return of capital. The financiers interest is purely commercial. They are there to make money and looking after retirees is, like their other operations, no more than a means of making more money. They are in a position to dictate policy and if their dictates are not met they can step in and take control as ING did with Village Life and Babcock and Brown with Primelife.

Any humanitarian focus is tied to individuals and not to the structure of the companies. If a village does not make money, the market dictates that it must be restructured (read costs reduced) until it does. If not it is sold. The humanitarian focus of individuals is subjugated to the market’s requirement.

The aging population, and particularly the arrival of the wealthy baby boomers has been a magnet for corporations whose wildly enthusiastic rhetoric results in share offers being heavily oversubscribed. The market has not lived up to this promise and many are still struggling.

Apr 1999 The promise

All three funds are focused on one key statistic - the number of Australian retirees is set to skyrocket, from 12 per cent now to 20 per cent in 2030.

Only 3 per cent of Australia's elderly live in retirement homes, but if the American experience is anything to go by, that figure could reach 15 per cent.
AMP Looks To The Elderly For Growth Australian Financial Review April 7, 1999

Feb 2004 Developments

The retirement village industry may need to find up to $19 billion to build almost 80,000 units over the next 20 years, according to a report published by the University of Queensland's Centre for Research in Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures.

Author of the report, Bob Stimson, said while the current take-up rate of retirement village living by retirees meant 34,000 units were needed by 2021, only a 3 per cent per annum increase would raise that figure to more than 79,000 units.
However, it said the capital markets were already applying solutions to aged-care funding issues, forming property trusts, albeit on a small-scale basis, while the securitisation of deferred management fees was close.

Broader aged-care property trusts were also being investigated, as were retirement village development vehicles.
Age of the village people looms The Australian February 5, 2004

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Problems for the Companies

The aged care demographics as expressed by these enthusiasts indicate that there should be huge profits. This follows from their understanding of what baby boomers will do or be persuaded to do - and that there is an endless supply of wealthy high living oldies. In fact there are still far more middle inclome cost conscious and low income citizens who have a different take on life. This perspective is expressed by some in the sector but the noise in the media is such that they are mot heard.

In practice retirement has sometimes proved to be a high risk business. When things go wrong the residents are likely to be caught up in that. The costly luxury villages for the wealthy are not a problem - but balancing profit and services to the poorer sections of the population is a different matter as Village Life and Community Life found out. Primelife, Australia's largest company had major problems which were of its own making and were not as suggested in one article representative. These three companies gave the market a fright but there are other reasons for concern.

Aug 2004 Industry reservations

"You may have guaranteed growth in the aged population in this country, but you don't have guaranteed profits over the long term," says Charles MacDonald, chief executive of Australian Retirement Homes and board member of the Retirement Village Association. "It's a troubled industry. The infrastructure is an anachronism. The government's new higher certification standards are forcing people out because they can't afford to make the facility upgrades."

These quandaries have given potential aged-care sector entrants reason for pause. At the moment they are standing outside the aged-care mounting yard, staring over the fence at the market, rubbing their chins and wondering whether they can make a go of it.

If they do saddle up for the ride, they had better hold on it is a complex and unforgiving industry. We're not talking here about retirement village developments, which, as lifestyle resorts for the over-55s, are a relatively straightforward real estate play.
The boom in retirement villages Australian Financial Review August 7, 2004

Jun 2005 Problems for some

The Pitchers are among 4.1 million baby boomers shuffling towards retirement in the next few years. It should be a boom industry, ripe for developers and operators to turn solid, long-term profits. So why can't people make any money out of it?

Take this from an investor in listed retirement homes developer Prime Life.

"I've invested in the sector for four years and the returns have been marginal. I suspect investments in retirement villages are a cyclical, property play.

"Most old people tend to stay in their own homes as long as they can, preferring to die at home rather than move into a retirement village. The building and running of retirement villages is a capital-intensive business with mediocre returns."

The past year has been littered with profit downgrades and corporate ructions at the like of Prime Life and Village Life.
Property group Thakral Holdings found out the hard way when it tried building for seniors in Queensland seven years.

"It was a disaster," managing director John Hudson says. "Baby boomers do not want to buy cheap housing in far-out places. Today's affluent baby boomers want quality homes in a lifestyle development which is close to the sea or in a golf resort.

"We are targeting the over-55s who want to enjoy life after retiring. We are not in the nursing home category."

That spells trouble for developers of low margin businesses that have struggled as construction costs blow out and occupancy levels and earnings disappoint.
Pitch for retiring types The Australian June 25, 2005

Jun 2005 Business model for the less wealthy not working

The business model for listed aged-care property developers is not working. The share prices of several retirement home owners and operators that listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in the past 18 months have plunged this year. Disastrous performances have been blamed on blow-outs in construction costs, lower-than-forecast occupancy rates and a lack of financial discipline in running the businesses.
But bad news is not deterring big investors. Some prominent names have been attracted to the sector, lured by a cashed-up ageing population. About 2.5 million people in Australia are aged 65 years or over, and that figure is forecast to rise to 4.48 million by 2023.

Aug 2005 Not all roses and profits

Other developers have also found the retirement industry difficult. John Hudson, the managing director of the listed hotel owner and residential developer Thakral, says: "We had an area set aside for seniors living at our Glades [development on the Gold Coast], but they did not sell. My opinion, having had that experience and thought about it, is that people who are in that 55-70 age bracket would not dream of moving into that sort of thing. The only time they would is when they feel ill or worried about getting ill and they need to be looked after. It's the first stage on the trip to the grave for them."
McDonald says he even has to make a clear distinction in the language Becton uses, to avoid scaring off potential buyers. "We use the word retirement when talking to investors so that they know what space we are talking about. But we don't use the word with customers. They do not want to hear that word."
But analysts say it is unclear whether the overall retirement market is a financially viable sector from which substantial profits can be made. What is clear though, is that there is still a substantial shake-out to come.
A tough old market BRW August 4, 2005

Aug 2005 A dangerous sector

Jenkins (analyst) adds: "Retirement villages are immediately obvious [as being exposed to an ageing population] but they're among the most dangerous. There's quite a few things that look attractive that can come undone."
Learning the population shuffle Australian Financial Review August 17, 2005

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Future Projections

Most see the retirement sector consolidating through mergers and takeovers in much the same way as other sectors have. At the present time no one has found a delivery model that really works. The large banks are consolidating ownership of the buildings into large trusts.

Dec 2002 Consolidation predicted

Inge says there is no clear market leader, and he predicts that the industry will be rationalised in the next few years, as newcomers arrive in the industry and retirement village operators merge to achieve economies of scale. "The industry is primed for some major consolidation,"
Retirement villages as good as gold Business Review Weekly December 5, 2002

Jul 2004 To be rationalised

"It is this marrying of property development and retirement living/aged care services provision that makes the industry so complex.

"Furthermore, it is compounded by government regulation and policy, which can dramatically affect profitability."

Ms Towart said this was expected to favour consolidation of the sector. "This consolidation can also be expected to favour larger facilities, with many smaller (and older) facilities being rationalised."
Old folks homes are not so easy The Sydney Morning Herald July 17, 2004

Apr 2005 Profits by offering rental or offering ownership?

Over the next decade, and because the introduction of compulsory superannuation savings is recent, the number of retirees who are not self-funded is expected to balloon, tipping the scales in favour of rental accommodation providers, according to Nick Rehak, an emerging companies analyst at Austock.

"Longer term, increasing affluence and higher numbers of self-funded retirees will benefit owner-occupier retirement village operators and negatively impact on demand for rental retirement villages."

Rehak also says longer life expectancy will flow through to longer occupancy periods, benefiting rental accommodation operators at the expense of owner-occupier villages, which benefit from faster turnover.
Aged care offers healthy growth Australian Financial Review April 6, 2005

Jun 2005 predicting consolidation

Tim Knapton, chief executive of independent investment bank Equity Capital Markets, says part of the problem is too many players. He predicts today's 3000 operators will drop to about 1000 in two years.
Pitch for retiring types The Australian June 25, 2005

Feb 2006 Predicts preference for deferred fee model

Linwar Securities senior analyst Michael Henshaw envisages a "groundswell" of public demand for villages and desire for the deferred fee model.
Will they still love you at 74? The Courier-Mail February 18, 2006


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The Residents

If we go back to the generation before the boomers we find a far greater acceptance of aging and mortality. This is reflected in a 1988 press report. This contrasts sharply with the perspective of the baby boomers as seen through the eyes of the developers. The only insight we have into their thoughts comes from advertorials by those who see them through dollar impregnated lenses.

Jan 1988 Confronting physical decline and death

The elderly do recognise the depressing side of retirement accommodation, where strokes, progressive physical decline and death are part of the cycle of community life.

William Brown, a retired lawyer living in Wesley Gardens at Belrose, said he had felt relaxed and happy going into a hostel and being relieved of the pressures of home maintenance.

He and his wife, Mrs Robin Brown, found that the more fit elderly residents were able to assist the less robust.
However, the Browns are also aware of the gradual aging and progressive debilitation of the community members they mix with. It is a process which will be hastened by government policy excluding those who are more fit from entry.

In the 3 1/2 years since the Browns' arrival, many people they have known have fallen victim to stroke, or have died.
TURNING BACK TO THE FAMILY Sydney Morning Herald January 12, 1988

Feb 1996 Better not to look!

For many, moving to a retirement village is the best thing that happened to them. During the working years, not everyone has the time or even the inclination to join a club or communal organisation.

At retirement, especially if they choose to live in a retirement village, they find that group companionship is virtually handed to them on a plate, and most suddenly realise they now have the time, and the facilities, to smoothly enrich their lives by making true friends with people their own age.
But in a retirement village you don't have to push, because everyone's bobbing along in the same boat and it's a case of ''here we are all friends together so let's have some fun''.
That is how Mr Zig Inge (developer) views it. And he should know, because for the past 20 years he has been designing and building retirement villages full time.
Varied Temptations Of Village Life Sunday Age February 25, 1996

Jul 2005 Its about living while you can

"Residents love to participate and be involved in community life," Grant said.

"From art classes to yoga to line dancing, each resident gains an enormous amount of satisfaction from interacting with one another."

Servicing the village is local bus which stops at there five times a day to transport residents to the local shopping centre.

"It is an important part of retirement village life that residents are provided with an opportunity to visit local shopping centres and other amenities," said Grant.
`With superb views of Mount Warning with more than 28 acres of uninterrupted tranquillity, you have the ideal retirement setting'
Many options in a grand setting Gold Coast Sun July 7, 2005

Large numbers of residents are mentally and physically active. They are still able to act as effective customers. For others entering a retirement village is a major and disturbing life event, particularly as this may follow an illness or the loss of a spouse. Some might be better in their own homes.

Health and mental faculties decay so that they become less able to assess and stand up for their rights - too often they simply do not have the mental and financial fortitude, nor sufficient life left to fight protracted legal battles against wealthy corporate owners.

These people are vulnerable and should be able to trust those offering services. They should not have to watch their backs for corporate sharks. The information available shows that it is essential they do so. Residents have been involved in long and traumatic conflicts with companies like the Fini Group, Gandel Retirement Villages and Moran Healthcare. (see linked web pages for details). The issues and concerns about the contracts offered to residents are explored further on these pages. 

The December 2004 Newsletter of the Association of Residents of Queensland Retirement Villages has sections looking at, and critical, of some issues surrounding the Retirement Villages Act other acts as well as the tribunals which adjudicate. They are als critical of Tricare. The associations web address is

Jan 1994 A cautious view

But retirement village contracts have left a bitter taste in the mouths of some families who only count the cost when a relative dies or has to move.

One resident, aged 71, took out a mortgage to move to a village in Balwyn two years ago and is now selling because she cannot afford to maintain it. She loves the lifestyle, filling her days with the unusual combination of golf and spinning. "I'd love to stay but my family has been helping me and they have young children and I'd hate to think they were going without to look after me. I'm moving to a council place that's non-profit. My son-in-law says he wishes he'd known about it before.''

When units are sold, fees can be extensive. One family sold a serviced unit in August for $82,000 after the resident's death and received only $47,000 once the village fees were settled. The resident's niece, an executor of the estate who did not want to be identified, said the village had been a wonderful place for her aunt to live but the financial cost seemed inequitable.

"She was advised what would happen, so it's hard to complain. But it seems like there is very uneven bargaining power. My aunt died in January, and the unit was occupied by somebody else from March but we were charged maintenance until it was sold in August.''

Ms Stevenson said the biggest problems with villages came when residents wanted to move into nursing homes and had to wait to reclaim their money. She said many people who contacted the Council on the Ageing from villages had not thought what the financial implications would be if they wanted to move out.
There's a running scepticism among aged policy makers and geriatricians about retirement villages. Many are unhappy about the ghettos created when parts of society live separately, about the financial costs, and the unsettling effects of moving just before a health decline begins.

DR RICHARD WHITE, head of the geriatric assessment team at Western Hospital, says people who age successfully do so by maintaining their social networks, and keeping intellectually and physically active.

"The sort of people who move to retirement villages often do so for the wrong reasons. When an older person begins to dement, it's best they are in a familiar environment. They will function better and longer in an environment they have known for a long time.''

Jean Elder, executive director of the Victorian Council on the Ageing, would prefer people examined their motives for moving carefully and considered making adjustments to their current environment.

She said many people moved with an abstract sense that "everything would be looked after for them'' without analysing the problems of maintenance or isolation which might be more easily or cheaply addressed in their own homes.
The Time Of Their Lives Sunday Age January 2, 1994

There are more recent allegations from within the industry which reinforce the perception of this marketplace as containing far too many ruthlessly commercial entities prepared to capitalise on the sectors vulnerability.

Aug 2004 Shonky operators

For Sid Londish, who has just sold his $500 million plan to build resort style retirement homes at Campbelltown in Sydney's outer west to a company called Viculus, the aged care sector is an untapped bonanza.

"It's big business," he says. "It's a big story. It's not difficult to make money out of the aged."

Londish, 80, says shonky operators make their cash by overcharging the resident's estate-deferred management fees of up to 50 per cent on the capital cost of the property when the owner dies.

"The operators do have costs but some of these fees are pretty exorbitant."

Londish says owners will often take most of the capital gain from a property once the owner dies and often charge 3 per cent a year for maintenance and selling fees which adds up if the resident has been there for 15 years.

Londish estimates that 60 per cent of operators do the right thing while the remainder are looking for a "quick buck".
Reputations suffer as growing industry tries to shake off the shonks Australian Financial Review August 7, 2004

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Treatment of Retirees

In Commercial enterprises financial pressures inevitably impact on conduct and services. Its not surprising that some are concerned about the way the retirees are treated in retirement homes.

Jul 2004 Concerns about the sector

The review (in Victoria) will examine:
  • Whether the industry needs standard or model contracts.
  • Dispute resolution schemes for residents.
  • Rights for residents to resell units through a real estate agent other than the operator.
  • Time limits on charges and a deadline on entitlements after a resident leaves a village.
  • Removing the overlap between the Retirement Villages Act and the Commonwealth Aged Care Act.

Kris Spark, from Seniors Information Victoria (a division of the Council on the Ageing), says the council has received complaints about contracts between residents and the retirement village operators.

"Contracts can vary from village to village," she says. "Some have deferred fees, which are picked up by your estate after you move out, and some operators keep a portion of the capital gain on your unit after you leave."

There were also issues over the sale of units or villas: will the operator sell your unit quickly if they have new units also on the market? How quickly will your estate get the funds due from the sale of the property? And how long will the estate have to pay monthly maintenance fees once a resident has moved out - sometimes to a higher-care hostel or nursing home?
"You pay a lump sum, say $200,000, and you are effectively lending that money to the operator," he says. "But you don't get paid any interest on the money and there may be terms in your contract that result in funds being deducted before any of that money is returned to your estate.

"Each contract is different. If you have a licence to occupy, I think you have fewer rights than a tenant if something goes wrong. It's important to know what will happen if the operator goes broke. Will you be shown the door?"
The village choice The Sydney Morning Herald July 28, 2004

Feb 2006 Always get legal advice

The Law Institute emphasises that buying into a retirement village is not the same as buying real estate.

It is rare for a retirement village operator to sell the title of a unit. Retirement villages have different legal structures, and each has different rights and responsibilities.

The choice of village, and its particular legal structure, has important implications in areas such as taxation, rights and responsibilities under legislation, up-front costs and ongoing charges.

The main kinds of agreement between residents and the owner/operator of a village include:

LEASES: the resident is given a long-term lease for a fixed term in return for payment of an upfront lump sum, often referred to as an in-going contribution.

LICENCES: the resident is given the right to occupy the unit for a fixed term in return for payment of a lump sum, or in-going contribution. The in-going contribution is repayable, subject to deductions, when the resident leaves the village or dies.

BODY CORPORATE UNITS AND STRATA TITLES: you buy the unit/property and contribute to the maintenance of the common areas.

COMPANY TITLES: the resident buys shares in a company whose articles of association permit them to live in the unit.

UNIT TRUSTS: the trustee is the legal owner of the property and the resident buys a unit trust in return for being allowed to occupy the property.

Arrangements made between the retirement village operator and the potential resident should be set out in written contracts. When you are ready to commit to residency, you will get a lot of paperwork, including proposed contracts.

These documents can be complex and will contain many provisions on the rights and responsibilities of a resident, including:
The Law Institute says it is imperative that residents fully understand their rights and responsibilities before they sign any contracts.

This is really why anyone who is considering entering a retirement village should get good legal advice -- in advance.
Village life is not for all Herald-Sun February 11, 2006

Aug 2006 New laws for NSW and WA

New laws to strengthen the rights and security of retirement village residents as well as cutting red tape for village operators are being introduced in New South Wales.

New measures include a cooling-off period so new residents can decide if village life is what they want, protection for residents from village budget blowouts, and a clearer definition of who pays for what in a village.
The move was announced last week just as WA was completing a series of meetings on a review of retirement village legislation.
The need for reform and greater security was highlighted recently by the financial collapse of the Woolcott Village at Wahroonga which left a number of residents thousands of dollars out of pocket and required to pay high rents or find alternative accommodation.
Another important change is the introduction of a 90 day settling-in or cooling-off period. If a new resident leaves during that time they only have to pay a fair and reasonable service fee for the time they were there.
Under the Act:

  • Residents will become secured creditors if an operator becomes insolvent.
  • Operators will be prohibited from manipulating interest-free loans or donations by new residents to reduce their share of capital gain when they leave a village.
  • New residents will be provided with a full disclosure document before they move in detailing all fees, charges and responsibilities of both resident and operator.

NSW strengthens the rights of retirement village residents The West Australian August 21. 2006

Aug 2006 Risky for retirees when companies fail

The legislation comes after eight residents lost their entire savings last month when a company that operated a Sydney retirement home went bankrupt.
"Older people are particularly vulnerable targets and they need to be vigilant about their personal details and who they trust," Ms Beamer (NSW Fair Trading Minister Diane Beamer) said.
Laws shield aged from vagaries of village life Illawarra Mercury August 24, 2006

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Accreditation is the current buzzword in the game of pretending to monitor the standards of services when dealing with people who are vulnerable. It is a useful advertising tool but it has not worked well. Most of the many abuses in the US health and aged care system occurred in accredited facilities. Accreditation of nursing homes is not working in Australia.

There are many reasons for this. One is relying on self regulation in an industry where all of the commercial pressures are towards exploiting the vulnerability of those served.

Mar 1997 Accreditation

The Retirement Village Association moved to introduce a compulsory accreditation program late last year for its members. Industry self-regulation is being hailed as part of the process to rebuild confidence.
Chronic Case / Retired Hurt The Australian March 29, 1997

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Co-located Nursing Homes

Even the collocation of a nursing home next to a retirement village does not guarantee a place. The home may be too small to meet the needs of the village.

Jul 2004 No guarantee

If you have a retirement village with 600 units next to a nursing home with 60 or 70 beds, that nursing home won't be able to cope with all the residents from that village," Alcorn says. "You would not want to go into that village thinking you have a place guaranteed at the nursing home."

Jennifer Clancy, the general manager of operations at PrimeLife, the operator of Waterford Valley Lakes retirement village, says: "It is illegal to give an undertaking to someone that if they enter your village, they can then move on to the nursing home or hostel on site."
The village choice The Sydney Morning Herald July 28, 2004

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The Companies (Summary and Links)

There is information on this web site about some but not all of the main players in retirement villages. I have selected a few as examples.

I have already provided links to web pages about Village Life and Community Life, two companies which sought to exploit pensioners.


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Primelife was founded by a previous bankrupt and grew to be one of the largest companies operating retirement villages. It describes itself as Australia's largest provider of senior lifestyles. Its course was characterised by stories of repeated confrontations with associated businesses, many aggressive law suits, ongoing financial difficulties, questionable commercial practices, board room disputes, tax problems, law suits by investors and dubious if not illegal management, and financial dealings by its founder. It used the deferred management fees system of payment and has established a close relationship with Babcock and Brown banking group.

Primelife and Babcock and Brown are involved in a multitude of interlocking financial deals involving other investment trusts and other companies. This is disturbing in light of the company’s seamy history and poor financial performance over the years. Legally in Australia companies are regarded as a person and subject to the regulations requiring probity. One must question Primelife’s probity and so its suitability to operate in this sector.

Click Here to explore the disturbing Primelife saga


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Australian Retirement Homes and FKP

Australian Retirement Homes is the retirement village subdivision of the property developer Forrester Kurts Properties (FKP). It uses the deferred payment model and targets self funded retirees. Because of its diverse operations this model has not resulted in the sort of cash flow problems experienced by Primelife. FKP has reached a settlement with the ACCC in regard to breaches of the trade practices act. The material raises issues about their integrity and trustworthiness. FKP has joined with Macquarie bank to expand into New Zealand.

Click Here to explore FKP and its aged care division


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Tricare operates nursing homes and retirement villages. It has targeted the luxury market and made its founder very wealthy. It has recently teamed up with MacQuarie Bank and will manage the Salvation army nursing homes purchased by the bank - a very different group of people.

Tricare’s glowing advertorials should be contrasted with damning criticism by nurses and allegations that a resident was detained in a nursing home against her will and that of her family.

Click Here to explore Tricare further


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Mirvac - Fini

Fini was a West Australian building group which branched into Retirement Villages and targeted the luxury market using the deferred Management fee structure, In 2001 it merged with the large building group Mirvac which did not operate in Western Australia.

Fini is interesting because it was the residents in their luxury villages which took up the inequities in the contracts they entered into with Fini - typical of the sector. They fought them through the courts. This story is told on the Fini web page.

Click Here to explore the Fini saga and these conflicts.


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Gandel Retirement Enterprises

Gandel Retirement Enterprises was another property developer that moved into the luxury retirement market. Their residents were also unhappy about the contracts they had signed. They also took to the courts and were supported by the NSW Department of Consumer Affairs. The judge ruled against them because he felt that they had been properly informed in regard to these complex contracts. No comment is made about the capacity of the elderly to assess these explanations. This is the market and not a community service. Buyer Beware!

Click Here for more about the Gandel story and the battle with residents

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Craigcare was a West Australian private nursing home and retirement village company which was acquired by Westpac funded Sauve Enterprises. There is a conflict between the need for homeliness, everyday activities and animals on the one hand, and hygiene, safety, potential litigation and accreditation on the other. The advent of a corporate structure, accreditation and the increasing law suits which are the inevitable consequence of this result in regulatory strictures and corporate actions which can jeopardise the quality of life by creating a sterile environment without a sense of home. This is illustrated by the story of a dog.

Click Here to explore Craigcare further.


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Retirement Services Australia

Retirement Services Australia is another Victorian property developer with a major interest in retirement villages. It planned to list and then expand nationally. It was acquired by Macquarie bank in June 2006.

Click Here for more about Retirement Services Australia


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Zig Inge

Zig Inge is a private retirement village company which operated in the luxury market. It was acquired by Macquarie Bank. The bank will fund growth and Zig Inge will manage the villages

Click Here for the story of Zig Inge

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St Ives Group

St Ives is a private West Australian Company which has received a lot of press coverage through its advocacy of the luxury retirement life style. It has pioneered a new idea - retirement villages as part of a university.

Click Here to explore St Ives ideas

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Aevum came into being when the Hibernian Friendly Society demutualised and floated its retirement villages on the share market. It prospered and fought off an immediate takeover by Primelife. Primelife and its partner Macquarie bank continue to stalk it and now have a dominant holding.

Click Here for more about Aevum

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Milstern Health Care

This group was founded and run by Millie Phillip who made her fortune in mining before entering aged care in the 1960s. She formed Millstern in 1986 and it was listed for 6 years. Reports indicate that Phillips had political connections. Her nursing homes were involved in a scandal and the press reported that they were treated very leniently. The company also owned 9 retirement villages but there is less information about them.

Click Here for more about Milstern and here for limited information about the villages


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Moran Health Care

Moran Health Care is primarily a nursing home operator although it dabbled unsuccessfully in hospitals. It has operated a small number of villages in Australia and has been active in Ireland where reports suggest it was involved in retirement villages. One retiree has gone to court accusing it of exploiting their vulnerability.

Click Here to go to the Retirement village section of the Moran web page

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Retirement by Design

Retirement by Design was the aged care vehicle for DCA and Delfin which was once partly owned by DCA. DCA has focussed on rapid growth in nursing homes in Australia and New Zealand. It sold its holding in Delfin and has reduced its holding in Retirement by Design to free up cash for nursing homes.

Apr 2004 A small exposure

Other listed companies in this field include DCA Group, which has a small exposure to the retirement village market through a joint venture in Retirement by Design with Delfin Lend Lease. Maxe-Tec Australia is involved in retirement village management and specialist financial services funding.
Companies set to play greater role in village activities The Australian April 14, 2004

Click Here to go to the retirement section of the DCA page


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Becton Group

Becton Group is a small company owning only two villages but with ambitions. There was not much information.

Aug 2005 Becton

The chief executive of Becton Group, Hamish McDonald, agrees experience and patience are needed to make money in the sector. Becton has two large retirement living projects in Melbourne and has plans for several more. Becton uses the deferred management fee model, which McDonald says has been used successfully in Australia for many years. "What is new is that the investment market thinks it is a good market to throw money at. Owning and operating properties that older people live in is not a simple thing to do. People underestimate the complexity of what we are dealing with.
MAX BECK: Becton Group's retirement arm, soon to be re-branded Becton Living, is believed to earn about $30 million annually from two retirement developments in Melbourne.
A tough old market BRW August 4, 2005

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Other Companies (Village Life, Community Life and Villa World)

Information about and links to pages about Village Life, Community Life and Villa World were provided in the earlier section headed "For Profit Corporations and the Needy". These are companies which sought to provide services to and take profits from poorer pensioners.

In addition to those mentioned on this page there are others as well as a number of groups moving into the area. It is fragmented.

Aug 2005 Other operators

LANG WALKER: Built the boutique Heritage of Hunters Hill retirement village in Sydney.

CYRIL MALONEY: Controls the Astra Retirement Village in Bondi, Sydney.

TONY LENNON: Founder and majority shareholder of the listed West Australian developer Peet & Co, which wants to establish a fund that will invest in retirement complexes built on the company's land.

BOB ELL: His development company, Leda Holdings, is undertaking a 600-hectare project at Cobaki Lakes south of the Gold Coast, which could include a retirement village.

MAHA SINNATHAMBY: Has plans for a retirement village in the large Springfield development south-west of Brisbane.

LEWIS FAMILY: Lewis Land Group has plans for a retirement complex, with medical and recreational facilities, at its Sovereign Hills site in Port Macquarie, New South Wales.
A tough old market BRW August 4, 2005


For Updates:- A good way to check for recent developments in aged care is to go to the aged care crisis group's search page and enter the name of the company, nursing home or key words relating to any other matter in the search box. Most significant press reports are flagged there. The aged care crisis web site has recently been restructured and some of the older links used from this site may not work.

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Web Page History
This page created Sept 2006 by
Michael Wynne
Additions/Modifcations May 2007