One of the main reasons integrated village and care facilities appeal to older couples is the promise of remaining close to each other should one person’s health decline.
For couples who have spent a life time together, the prospect of being separated in their final years due to poor health is unpleasant.
Take Tony and Marlene Baker, for example. After a life well spent of racing cars, the couple decided to retire together in 1995 – until Marlene’s diagnosis of dementia led them to consider care options.
“Without even thinking about getting sick in our old age, Marlene was diagnosed with dementia five years ago,” Tony said.
They found their solution at Bupa Redwood, a co-located Bupa site in Rotorua with both a retirement village and a care home.
They sold their home and moved into Bupa Redwood Retirement Village where they lived together for two years.
However, as Marlene’s dementia progressed and caring for her became harder for Tony, she moved into the onsite care facility over a year ago.
Facility manager Noku Sibanda said the process of moving a loved one into care can be stressful and was something Tony struggled with.
“For Tony and Marlene, they don’t have children so they were very, very close to each other. Separating Tony and Marlene was something Tony was not happy about,” she says.
“Before Marlene moved to stay in the care home, I had several conversations with Tony, inviting him over for a cup of tea and talked to him about the care we were going provide for Marlene.”
“Tony would bring Marlene into the care home and spend some time there until he felt relaxed about bringing Marlene into care.”
Now Tony is still living in the retirement village and making regular visits at least twice a day to see Marlene, who lives right next door at Bupa Redwood Care Home.
Tony feels that having the two care facilities side by side gives couples with different care needs less pressure and the peace of mind if any health issues arise.
“I think it’s up to the individual, whatever they feel that they have got the time for, and I have now to see Marlene. I think it is very important,” he says.
New Zealand operators have long recognised the merit in providing a full continuum of care to allow couples like Tony and Marlene to stay close to each other while their health and social needs begin to differ.
In more recent years, some operators have introduced apartments that allow people to age in place, even as their health deteriorates and their care needs change.
Summerset’s care apartments are a good example. They offer serviced apartments that come with a range of service packages that can cover everything from help with housekeeping, meals, right through to rest-home level care.
Operators who deliver integrated sites get the nod of approval from investors, too.
“We continue to have a preference for operators utilising a continuum of care model (i.e. an integrated village from independent living through to aged care and hospital level care),” states Craig’s Investment Partners’ Roy Davidson in his 2017 report on the New Zealand retirement village sector.
“This makes the decision to enter a village more ‘needs based’ with a resident knowing that aged care facilities are available when needed down the track, as opposed to it being a lifestyle choice to moving into a village. This results in more defensive demand for units, waiting lists, and generally a later age of entry into a village.”
Operators with a greater share of aged care are also more insulated from a property downturn as funds are largely provided by the government with demand again needs based, says Davidson.