The difference between ‘old age homes’ and ‘retirement estates’

12 July 2018

Happy senior couple gardening outdoor

When the retirement housing topic arises in conversation, most of us picture a stereotypical old age home; a hospital-like environment. But luckily enough, the retirement concept is rapidly evolving.

A particular trend in South African property is the rise of retirement estates replicating those of residential estates, except that residents are required to be at least 55 years old. The increased demand for upmarket retirement housing in South Africa is evident, especially with the consistent increase in life expectancy within the country over the past ten years.

We want to help our community understand the difference between an old-age home and a retirement estate.

 Old age home

An old age home is a housing facility that houses a number of people, and is intended for the elderly, above the age of 65. Typically, the home provides an apartment style room or suite for each person or couple to share.

Old age homes care for individuals that struggle to live independently; especially those who require assistance with basic daily activities. The services rendered by an old age home, for example, include laundry and cleaning, personal care, preparing meals, and medication management.

The units individuals are allocated to live in are designed specifically for the ‘aging’ generation. Therefore, the design behind each apartment has strategically been thought through with longevity and accessibility in mind. The key features such as avoidance of steps, including bathroom rails and emergency call buttons is a vital consideration for developers.

 Retirement estates

Retirement estates are multi-unit gated complexes, designed for people aged 55 years and older, that offer a range of health, leisure and support services. This type of living is specifically designed for those heading into retirement years but are able to live independently (not yet frail or dependent on carers).

The majority of retirement villages consist of single-level or low-rise villas or houses occupying spacious landscaped grounds. An increasing, upcoming trend is incorporating medium-rise, self-catering apartments into this traditional concept, in order to cater for those who require more affordable housing.

Retirement estates often consist of recreational and medical facilities, such as community halls, bowling greens, walking paths, pools, gyms, club houses, children’s play areas and rooms for visiting doctors or allied health professionals.

Some retirement estates bring in care services to assist onsite, but many of these services don’t provide full-time support, healthcare or frail care assistance. These additional care services usually require additional payment and can range from having an onsite nurse, medication management, help with daily activities, laundry services, and basic health checks including cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. The likes of Mount Edgecombe Retirement Village’s Care Centre and Shoreline’s Care facility is an exception to the rule, as they have created a more comprehensive, and personal healthcare service for retirees, so they do not have to go to anywhere else. The only way to enter a retirement estate is to buy or enter a lease-style agreement, which will require upfront fees similar to buying a standard residential home.


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