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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Time for some decent retirement home projects

RAPID changes in the lifestyle and affluence of the people are heralding changes in their way of life. Promoting new lifestyle concepts and ideas in our property landscape should be part of this whole change process to enliven our living space.

The living, working/study, and recreational landscapes need to keep up with these myriad changes to bring about a higher standard of living and way of life for the people.

Although residential projects are now better designed and built, there is still room for improvement and growth. We can certainly make use of more value adding projects that promote higher quality of life in keeping with the people's higher affluence; and these projects will also add depth to the market.

It is perplexing that after all these years, we still do not have lifestyle projects that are dedicated to retirees; or retirement villages that are built to cater to people who have retired from the work force.

A recent chat with some “retired” friends invariably touched on why after all these years, there are still no specially-built retirement villages for them and our senior citizens.

They pointed out that despite having so many development projects under way and on the drawing board in many parts of the country, none has came up with a retirement village in their project plans.

One of the reasons for the disinterest for such projects could be the misconstrued belief that old folks homes are the same as retirement homes, and that they are not lucrative projects to pursue.

There may also be a worry of a lack of interest for such facilities in view of the fact that the extended family tradition is still widely practised in our society. Unlike in the western societies who are accustomed to the concept of staying in retirement homes, their eastern counterparts usually prefer to stay put in their own home or move in with their grown-up children when they have reached retirement age.

It may also be because of a lack of expertise in such specialised projects as a retirement village is still a relatively new concept here. What we need is a gutsy developer to team up with an established operator of retirement villages to promote some landmark projects to get the concept off to a flying start in Malaysia.

We have to realise that the number of retirees who are opting to stay independently on their own is on the rise as a result of lifestyle changes.

Preferably they should be located in some nice suburbs with abundance of fresh clean air, lush greenery and yet are relatively close to civilisation and the basic amenities.

Although a good number of our senior folks can still fall back on their grown up children to take care of them, many are choosing to live independently for as long as they can.

There are various reasons for this to enjoy their freedom to live independently the way they want, while not be a burden to their children.

There is in fact a big market for such retirement homes and it should pay off handsomely for developers that start to seriously plan for properly designed and dedicated retirement villages for our retired folks.

It is about time we have properly designed retirement villages for them given that their number is on the rise and more of them have the means to enjoy a fruitful and rewarding lifestyle way into their twilight years.

As the country ages, so does its citizens. After all these years of toil and hard work, they deserve to live the rest of their life in a safe, pleasant and comfortable ambience.

The onus is on developers to study some of the more successful retirement schemes overseas and “localise” the projects by incorporating features and facilities that are tailor-made for the local populace. One of the all time favourites, I believe, will be kicking off with a mature fruit orchard beaming with durian, rambutan and mangosteen trees.

First and foremost, the champion for the maiden retirement village scheme in the country should get the objectives and design right from the start - a retirement home does not equal an old folks' home.

An old folks' home is basically an institution or home that accepts elderly people to stay for a fee, and usually these homes are fitted with some rather basic facilities such as food, lodging and helpers.

On the other hand, a retirement village is a colony of retirement homes that has been purposefully designed and equipped, as well as furnished and fitted with all the proper facilities, environment and ambience, to cater to the special needs of this special group of people. They may have retired but are still fit and healthy to pursue their hobbies and interests.

It is built within a safe and secure environment that is close to amenities, and come complete with a wide range of facilities that meet the needs of its residents.

These units can either be independent units for those who are still fit and healthy and can still take care of themselves, or catered units for people who need care and attention. They should be equipped with facilities that promote a healthy and enriching lifestyle such as gymnasium, swimming pool, laundrette, library, and elderly friendly features such as ramps for wheelchairs and healthcare providers.

These residences are usually available for sale or long leases. But rental should be discouraged because the very reason for opting to stay in a retirement village is for its security and community living, which may be compromised by the presence of the “short term” residents.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng knows many ways in which developers can fulfil their corporate social responsibility and one of the evergreen ways is to keep abreast of the needs of the old and young alike by making their developments user friendly and relevant for the people.

By The Star

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