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Apartments for life urged

Supplier: CareWell Health
19 June, 2011

New Zealand thinks about the future of aged care.

New Zealand's retirement industry has been urged to consider a new way of caring for the aged involving ''apartments for life'' where cure and care is provided when needed rather than them having to progressively shift home as they grow older.

The care philosophy comes from the Humanitas Foundation and was pioneered in the Netherlands by Dr Hans Becker, who shared his experience with more than 60 retirement village operators at yesterday's Ageing Asia conference in Auckland.

Under the Humanitas approach, ''cure and care'' rather than people are portable. The philosophy allows elderly people to have an apartment that may be government-subsidised, rented or bought in a ''somewhat self-contained'' retirement village. The villages have open to the public add-ons to the traditional care services, such as a restaurant, cinema and open spaces, and where residents comprise a mix of those needing medical care and those that don't. 

New Zealand Retirement Villages Association CEO John Collyns said this contrasts to New Zealand's traditional retirement concept of ''multiple physical moves", typically from a retirement village to a rest home and then on to a dementia and/or hospital unit as a person ages.

''It's telling people that they can live and grow old in one place and should they need cure and care in their elder years, those will come to them,'' Collyns said.

Oceania Group CEO Geoff Hipkins said the New Zealand industry had already embraced some aspects of the philosophy but still grappled with more of an ''audit-type culture''.

Oceania's Green Gable facility in Nelson began piloting aspects of the Humanitas programme early last year and will also use the concept in its new Mt Eden facility. It plans to build 30 independent living units and 70 assisted living suites at the new Auckland facility in August this year.

''We'd introduce a restaurant-type concept which is literally open not only to our residents and their families but to the general public. It will involve our residents in say, food preparation and provisioning. We see that as a huge gap in care as far as the elderly is concerned,'' Hipkins said.

Jason Falinski, managing director of CareWell Health, said that the challenge with this concept is the cost.  "The benevolent society has just got approval for the building of such a facility but they are finding it hard to justify on funding grounds, and they are a charity."

While the Humanitas business model may daunt some, he said, 100 per cent occupancy, increased use of volunteers and brand positioning ''will contribute to a positive bottom line''.

Geoff Tylee-Porter, CEO at The McLean Institute, said its Holly Lea facility in Christchurch is running ''like Humanitas in terms of the thinking'' except for the business model which is that of a charitable institution.

Source: CareWell Health