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Retirement village watchdog calls for clarity on rules, cost

By Rebecca Howard

July 11 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand’s government retirement village watchdog says there needs to be more clarity regarding the rules and costs of moving from independent living to rest home-type care facilities on the same site.

According to the Commission for Financial Capabilities, retirement villages are increasingly providing a continuum from independent villas through serviced apartments to the provision of residential care including rest home, hospital and dementia care.

More than 70 percent of villages now have care facilities on site, and more than 50 percent of New Zealand’s care beds are on retirement villages sites, it said in its annual Retirement Village Monitoring Report.

However, the contracts for residents and their families when they transition into residential care “are so complicated we found that even some lawyers who work in the field could not understand them,” said the Commission for Financial Capabilities national manager of retirement villages Troy Churton.

“A person who buys a license to occupy an independent living unit in a village may think they can move easily into the care facility on site should they need to, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Churton.

The process for moving into care is complex, and the resident may face extra charges, he warned.

“We believe retirement village operators are not explaining this clearly enough in their marketing and in the contracts they offer to intending residents,” he said.

“There needs to be better disclosure in the marketing and documents that tells consumers really clearly that if they’re going to need care in the future, there are different pathways by which they may access that care, each with different cost implications.”

Among other things, the problems are exacerbated by the dynamic and diverse nature of retirement village products and the “loose use of language and terms that can muddy and confuse,” according to the commission.

The report recommends changes to the Retirement Village Code of Practice to require retirement village operators to provide greater clarity for people considering moving into one, and to simplify the jargon that could confuse both prospective retirement village residents and their lawyers.

New Zealand's retirement village operators have been on a drive to push new development across the nation as they latch on to an ageing demographic.

Ryman Healthcare, for example, listed on the NZX in 1999 with eight villages. It now has 36 in operation which are home to around 11,000 residents. Of those, 6,878 are in retirement village units while 3,660 are in aged care beds.

In June, Summerset Group said it bought an 11-hectare site in Whangarei and an eight-hectare property in Cambridge and it expects each new village to have more than 200 units and about 70 serviced apartments and said that both will have a "continuum of care," providing rest home and hospital level care, and a memory care centre for people affected by dementia. Summerset has 26 villages open or in development with more than 5,000 residents.


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