Retirement villages and the Royal Commission

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From the moment of the surprise Sunday announcement by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison that a Royal Commission into aged care will be held, retirement villages have been mentioned as a possible inclusion.

2GB broadcaster Alan Jones asked the Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) on the Monday if retirement villages going to be included. Hunt said:

“care can be delivered in home care, and home care can be delivered in retirement villages…. Retirement villages are regulated by the state, if they would like to be part of this we would be very happy”.

Bill Shorten on Wednesday called for retirement villages to be included in the Royal Commission.
Mick Murray, the W.A. government’s Seniors and Ageing Minister, said in the Western Australian that his government was strongly supportive of the Royal Commission but believed its terms of reference needed to be broadened.

We have been told that four of the state retirement village resident associations have also decided to call for villages to be included.

We also hear of some senior executives in the sector pondering whether it may have merit.
We don’t agree on many fronts. Here are just a few:

  • the Royal Commission focus on aged care is vitally important – don’t muddy the waters with tangential issues
  • retirement villages by legislation are ‘independent living’ – not aged care
  • linking villages with the broken and emotionally challenging aged care service sector will forever cement the two sectors together in the consumer’s mind – incredibly damaging and wrong
  • the impact on village residents and their families by this linking will be unsettling and severe
  • 92% of 19,476 village residents we surveyed this January expressed satisfaction with retirement village living – the sector is not ‘broken’ (ref: National Resident Survey)
  • village sales for many are suffering now; a 12 month Royal Commission will compound this through to Christmas 2019 and beyond
  • when sales suffer, residents and their families suffer – uncertainty of funds for RADs, increased sense of being a ‘prisoner’, families agitating for their money, lower operating profits/less ability to reinvest in villages and services
  • regulatory uncertainty reduces capital investment in a sector where penetration is already significantly declining

There are no wins here – for residents or operators – for villages to be included in the Royal Commission.