Greater supply of housing for older generation crucial


Cape Town - The shortage of housing in South Africa is dire across the board, according to Arthur Case, the CEO of Evergreen Lifestyle.

There has been a big focus on the lack of accommodation for students, largely because this has been one of the issues raised during the student protests, but many other groups are similarly affected, he points out.

“This is certainly true for the elderly. Despite the perception many people have about the high levels of violence and disease in the country impacting on life expectancy, the number of older people has increased quite dramatically in recent years, and the population group over the age of 60 is likely to double by 2050,” says Case.  

"Although this trend may be somewhat unusual in a developing nation, the proof exists: according to StatsSA, the age cohort over 60 increased from 6.61% of the South African population in 2002 to 8.01% in 2016."

This trend has significant implications for a range of services: social security and private pension funds will be stretched; medical services will be under pressure; and the already great shortage of accommodation will be exacerbated.

“While there are distinctions in the scarcity based on particular income groups, the shortage is seen throughout the retired community. Among poorer communities, elderly people are found living with family, often in unsuitable accommodation, such as garages or garden sheds. Where those with bigger incomes are concerned, the deficiency is clear from the long waiting lists at retirement facilities. In some cases, it may take up to 10 years before one is finally offered a place at such a facility,” says Case.

Drastic changes

However, health and lifestyle requirements can drastically change in 10 years, he warns.

“The best option is to get into a retirement lifestyle village at a relatively young age. This way, you can exercise a choice about where to live and what type of accommodation you prefer. When a person waits until a crisis happens – such as, failing health or a security concern – the move into the retirement locale is far more urgent and, owing to the shortage of accommodation, the choice of where to go may be very limited.”

Trends in the retirement accommodation industry are largely driven by what is happening in North America where, thanks to the enhancement of medical knowledge, people are living far longer. Coupled with this is the relative affluence of the Baby Boomer generation – those born after the Second World War until the 1960s.  

There are a number of trends one sees, but those most relevant to the South African situation are: people are opting to move into retirement facilities at a younger age; and there is a greater demand for these facilities to offer more than accommodation only.

"Today’s retirement home is known as a lifestyle village because it offers a lifestyle choice, in addition to the roof over one’s head," says Case.

In addition to free-standing houses and apartments, residents can make use of a range of amenities on-site: gyms, swimming-pools, bowling greens, restaurants, libraries, and so on. Additionally, medical care is usually available: from clinics to frail-care nursing.

"Accommodation of this sort is geared to address the issues that make living in one’s own home problematic: the costs and responsibility of maintaining a large suburban home meant to house a larger family, as well as a garden, loneliness, and vulnerability in terms of security," says Case.

He is of the opinion that, while property developers have begun to address the lack of housing for the elderly, there is still a long way to go.  
“We have both to catch up with the backlog and to prepare for a future in which there will be many more making up the retired community,” he explains.

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