It’s time for the residents of the retirement village to live their lives on their own terms

When you enroll in a retirement village, you do not expect it to bring you additional stress

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When you enroll in a retirement village, you do not expect it to bring you additional stress

OPINION: If you had to guess, what would be the most stressful processes a Kiwi retiree faces?

The death of a spouse and close friends. Physical and cognitive decline. Increase dependence on others. Perhaps financial insecurity. Leaving the family home. Loss of driver’s license.

You might not think struggling for two years to upgrade the road and pavement access in your retirement village would be one of those stressors, but residents of a retirement village in South Canterbury would not agree.

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One of these residents is currently undergoing cancer treatment. They told me the processing was a breeze compared to the ongoing saga to bring the village infrastructure into line with the disclosure statement the operator has written and is legally required to submit at the time. the signing of the housing rights agreement.

Two years ago, an official complaint noted that substandard infrastructure in this village had injured 17 residents in three years. During the mediation, the Residents’ Committee was appointed to oversee the improvements, but was never informed of the scope of the work. The problem turned into chronic toxicity, dividing the village community and leaving some residents afraid to leave their homes.

It’s not what you’re signing up for when you, or your parents, entrust yourself to the care of a retirement village whose massive profit margins should easily cover the cost of such upgrades.

Unfortunately, the South Canterbury experience is emblematic of the problems inherent in the relationship of operators of New Zealand retirement villages with their residents.

Brian Peat, President of the Retirement Village Residents Association

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Brian Peat, President of the Retirement Village Residents Association

The Retirement Villages Act, the law that governs these relationships, is nearly two decades old, written when the industry was in its infancy to provide a framework for retirement living options. It has since grown in scale and complexity and will only continue to do so as New Zealand’s population ages. Except for a little tinkering, no study has been conducted to assess whether the balance of power between the operator and the consumer is appropriate.

The law as it stands works in favor of the operators, not the hundreds of thousands of residents – you, me, your mom, your dad – who entrust our safety and well-being to them, and from whom it benefits generously.

The process for handling disputes should be standardized and overseen by an ombudsman-like figure, who would ensure they are resolved within weeks and have the power to award damages. And there are other critical issues that the government must address through legislation. Contrary to what the Retirement Village Association (the operator’s representative body) says, a code of good practice will not enshrine rights that retirees not only deserve, but pay for.

Retirement Villages use a model Occupancy Right Agreement (ORA) which is to the detriment of most residents: after leaving their units, residents or their families must wait for the agreement to be renewed before reviewing their deposit, which imposes undue financial hardship on families at any given time. of the most vulnerable stages of life. In the meantime, they may incur ongoing charges of up to $200 per week until the unit is occupied by the new licensee. In 90% of cases, the resident who leaves does not share any added value.

The Retirement Village Residents Association has presented a petition to Parliament with 12,500 signatures calling for an urgent review of the legislation and a guaranteed return of capital. It is time for members of Parliament to take these concerns seriously. Sooner or later they will experience it themselves.

Brian Peat is President of the Retirement Village Residents Association of NZ.

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