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Retirement villages are a popular housing option for older Australians. They suit people who want to live independently with easy access to social networks, healthcare and security. But what support do they offer people living with dementia?

About retirement villages

Retirement villages are designed for people aged over 55. They provide housing, and usually have community areas that bring people together. They can vary significantly in size, facilities, support services and cost.

Importantly, retirement villages aren’t the same as residential aged care. These are some key differences:

  • People in retirement villages usually live independently. People in residential aged care need daily help with personal and health care.
  • Entry to a retirement village is based on your ability to pay. Entry to residential aged care is based on an assessment of your care needs.

Retirement villages are regulated by individual states and territories. The Learn More section, below, provides links to more information.

Dementia support in retirement villages

Legislation usually assumes that people in retirement villages are to be able to live independently. There are no rules or regulations about supporting or managing retirement-village residents’ health conditions.

Because of this, each operator can decide whether they want to provide support to people with ongoing health conditions (including dementia). This means that some villages will be an excellent option for people with dementia, while other villages won’t have the support or environment you need.

Moving to a retirement village

If you’re thinking about moving to a retirement village:

  • check the housing to see if it’s dementia-friendly
  • ask questions about the operator’s support for people living with dementia
  • get independent financial and legal advice
  • assess whether the operator can provide a better and more supportive environment than your home. Because a familiar environment is helpful with dementia, it might be better for you to stay in your current home.

In this video, dementia occupational therapists Nerida Turner and Katerina Tsokas speak about moving home, including when and where to move, tips for moving day and settling in.

Dementia expert webinar: moving home with dementia, with Nerida Turner and Katerina Tsokas

Staying in a retirement village

If you’ve been diagnosed with dementia and already live in a retirement village, you don’t automatically need to move out of the village.

Instead, you may be able to continue to live in the village with extra support and home care. Talk to the village manager and your doctors about your needs and what can be done to support them. We’ve provided a list of questions below to get you started.

Questions to ask

These questions will help you to understand the village’s approach to dementia and what support you can expect:

  • Have you made any commitments to support people with dementia? Are these in writing?
  • Does the village already provide a supportive environment for people with dementia?
  • Will the village help me meet my future support needs? For how long? And at what level?
  • Can I modify my home to meet my needs?
  • Do you have staff who are knowledgeable about dementia?
  • Do you have residential aged care in the same location, in case I need it in the future? Or do you have a partnership with an aged care facility?

Living with dementia in a retirement village

At some stage, you might need extra support to help you live independently in the retirement village.

The approach to support services will vary from village to village:

  • Some will provide services (like meals or basic housekeeping) at an extra cost.
  • Some will help you access external services.
  • Some expect you or your family to arrange the support you need.

As your dementia progresses and you need more support, you may need to move into residential aged care. It’s worth planning ahead to make sure your wishes are met.

Finding a retirement village

Most states and territories provide detailed guides to retirement villages. These include information about how they work, things to consider, and your rights. You can learn more at these links:

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) also has information about retirement villages.

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Last updated
4 January 2024