It was my absolute pleasure recently to meet with Chris Johnson, CEO of Urban Taskforce Australia, to discuss the issues surrounding Apartment Living For Seniors.
Chris Johnson is the CEO of Urban Taskforce Australia, an organisation that represents property developers and financiers. He was previously NSW Government Architect for 10 years and Executive Director in Planning NSW for four years. He has written or edited a dozen books on urban planning and has been Adjunct Professor at three universities.
The Urban Taskforce has many members who develop apartment buildings and some who develop retirement villages and residential aged care facilities. A number of members are seeing a new market with older Australians interested in living where there is some lively activity and amenities nearby. This has led to developments in Sydney such as Breakfast Point and Jacksons Landing.
Following our discussion, Chris agreed to contribute a guest article to the Lifestyle Transition Services blog. Here is his assessment of the advantages of apartment living for seniors.
Introducing Chris Johnson AM
Australian cities are going through a physical change that is balancing suburban living with urban living. One of the demographic groups driving this migration from suburban houses to urban apartments is the retiring baby boomers as they reach retirement age. Rather than mowing the lawn, large numbers of seniors are preferring to downsize to a smaller but more urban household where coffee shops, public transport, cinemas and community amenities are close at hand.
Our older citizens are more well off, more active and more independent than previous generations of retirees. Ninety years ago, the over 55s represented 10% of our population. They now represent 25% of a much larger population, and this is likely to lift to 40% of Australia’s population by the end of the century.
Translated to population numbers, this means we currently have in Australia six million people over 55 and by the end of the century this will have grown to 16 million older people. Even with retirement age moving to 65 and on to 70, the number of older, healthy, active people will be growing. The increasing advances in health care are making our seniors avoid moving into residential aged care for as long as they can.
These changes to our demographics are a real challenge to those who provide housing, including the property industry. While the more traditional residential aged care facilities will still be necessary for those living into their nineties, a new market is emerging of older people downsizing from large houses to apartments, often located in the same suburb but closer to amenities.
There will be many types of solutions ranging from apartments on top of supermarkets, as in Top Ryde and Balgowlah, to new apartments built near railway stations, to subdivided houses, or beach side townhouses for sea change seniors. The difficulty with supplying this market is that many older Australians want to mix with younger people and don’t want to be type cast as being old. They want great places to live that happen to suit their age.
Good examples in Sydney are Breakfast Point, where buildings range from terrace houses to nine-storey apartments. Communal facilities, all located within walking distance, include an $11 million club house, a 1.5 km foreshore walk, village shops with outdoor eating, a village green and a community hall. Another example is the Top Ryde development over a major shopping centre with views to the city. Amenities include a library, club rooms, swimming centre and extensive gardens, and of course a vast array of shops right below the development. Jacksons Landing, with taller towers, has also become a location where seniors have down-sized with views over the harbour. Here there is a health, and wellbeing centre and a physic centre as well cafes and restaurants.An emerging trend is to co-locate apartments with independent living units
What Are Your Thoughts? Would a development such as those described by Chris suit your needs when you are considering downsizing? Are there other features you would like to see developers include in these developments? Do we need stronger leadership at both local, and state government levels to ensure adequate and suitable accommodation is available to suit an aging population?
Please join the discussion and let Chris and the team at Urban Taskforce Australia know your thoughts! and an aged care facility. This allows a progression from full independence, where seniors cook their own meals, to having food delivered and then into a full care mode. Even these facilities can be located in high rise buildings with excellent lift services. As our population ages there will be a need for many models for housing this older demographic. The value of the apartment model is that it keeps seniors out of more expensive care facilities while they are in good health. Indeed the very nature of apartment living, where movement to local amenities is convenient, keeps seniors mentally and physically active. The property industry will continue to innovate in the buildings it produces to suit the increasing number of older Australians.