What is the difference between retirement living and aged care?

The retirement living and aged care industries often get mixed up, so what’s the difference? [Source: Shutterstock]

Choosing where we live is driven by many factors, including lifestyle, affordability, work or family. As we get older, our outlook can be informed by challenges associated with health and ageing, which might require a move into a retirement village or aged care facility.  

Understanding the differences between the two is critical because they are not the same thing.  

Retirement communities are specifically designed to foster a sense of belonging and connection which brings a host of benefits, such as reducing isolation and improving mental well-being.  

By contrast, the primary focus of nursing homes (also known as aged care facilities or residential aged care) is about providing care and keeping residents safe.  

There are currently 250,000 people around the country living in one of 2,500 retirement communities, which are suited to older Australians who want to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible – but with the benefits of community living.   

Nursing homes, on the other hand, are suited for individuals who can no longer live independently and need care and support around the clock. 

Both play a critical role within the housing ecosystem but for very different reasons.  

A two-bedroom unit in a retirement community is on average 48% more affordable than the equivalent median house in the same postcode – and most villages are effectively full.  

Services, facilities and on-site support vary too. Some retirement communities offer gyms, libraries, golf or bowling greens, theatres, on-site concierge and 24-hour emergency assistance, funded by residents rather than taxpayers.  

We should encourage age-friendly housing that improves mental health and well-being while minimising trips and falls, leading to fewer visits to the doctor. The benefits for consumers and Governments are compelling.  

Retirement communities provide better housing that leads to better health outcomes for older Australians.  

Knowing the difference between the two is becoming more critical, especially since there are currently two million Australians aged over 75 – a cohort growing by 70% over the next two decades.

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