International Trends in Retirement Village Design

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A retirement village is an enclosed housing complex specifically designed for older retirees. They differ from aged-care assisted homes in that the residents are generally still fit and young at heart.

Typically these communities have some required criteria for potential new residents including that residents must be of a specific age; residents must be partially or fully retired; and that residents must be able to provide proof of funds for purchase. Rather than being a rented apartment, retirement villages – often termed Lifestyle Estates – are a purchased investment unit that can be designed and tailored to each resident’s specific requirements.

The last decade has seen some significant social changes that are shaping the future trends of these retirement villages.

It is predicted that the number of Australians aged 85 and over will increase from 0.4 million in 2010 to 1.8 million by 2050. This is due to various collective lifestyle changes amongst the population that are increasing longevity and overall life expectancy. Similarly, retirement villages are reporting an increasing number of residents who are still actively employed.

This increasing number of older people has resulted in a greater need for retirement villages. Moreover, these villages are no longer sedentary apartments. They are transforming into 5-star resorts with all the amenities and activities required to fully enjoy your retired years.

Some of the major trends that we are currently seeing in these retirement estates include:

Innovations in scale and design

Due to the overall increase in wealth in this age bracket from them still engaging in employment, residents are now able to select a more personalised design that suits their individual needs. Lifestyle Estates have expanded and become a lot more versatile with their design offerings to cater for personal preferences.

Variety of services

Lifestyle features such as bowling greens, boating and fishing facilities, and gymnasiums have become much sought-after services that potential residents look for when selecting the most suitable retirement village.

Independent living

Residents have also mentioned that a high priority for them is personal space and independence. Retirement villages ensure that each unit is individually equipped with all amenities as well as a private garden area to allow residents to still live independently.

Community-based setting

While residents want their own independent living space, they also want to be part of a community. Selling a home that you have lived in for decades and relocating to an unfamiliar retirement village can be very daunting. The community-based setting of these lifestyle estates is appealing to many prospective residents.

From a national standpoint, these changes in the retirement sector have required a change in governance. In 2008, the Australian Productivity Commission published a paper highlighting the Trends in Aged Care. This paper highlights the overall trends and how the Australian Government intends to factor these trends into future planning.

In Australia, the Superannuation Guarantee was adopted in 1992 as an effort to safeguard retirees against financial incapacity. Similarly, in the United States, the national Social Security system provides a broad-based foundation for retirement security. New Zealand’s Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income provides online tools to help citizens manage their personal finances, publishing research on retirement issues, and promoting personal financial education as part of the school curriculum.

Overall, the design trends within these retirement villages promote a happier, more holistic lifestyle. Moreover, there appears to be a general consensus globally that these Lifestyle Estates need to be designed with a more modern approach that encompasses all of the facets of content retirement.


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