Healthier, happier retirement communities can reduce hospitalisations

The Retirement Living Council (RLC) welcomes the findings of the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) annual Public Hospital Report Card as an important reminder for governments across the country about the health benefits of retirement living.

The AMA report, released last Friday, found that Australians over the age of 65 represented more than 40 per cent of total separations from public hospitals in 2021-22, and 47 per cent of the total patient days occupying beds within public hospitals.

It also found that the number of beds per 1,000 Australians aged over 65 has again fallen to the lowest number on record, down to 14.3.

RLC Executive Director Daniel Gannon said while the report’s findings are concerning, there is a housing type that leads to better health, happiness and care solutions.

“Age-friendly retirement villages are leading to better health outcomes for older Australians because they are purpose designed and put social interaction at their core,” Mr Gannon said.

“When it comes to health care, retirement village residents are 20 per cent less likely to require hospitalisation after only nine months living in one of these communities, which leads to 14,000 avoided annual hospitalisations across Australia.

“Compared to people who don’t live in a retirement community, residents are 15 per cent more physically active, 41 per cent happier, five times more socially active, twice as likely to catch up with family or friends and have reduced levels of depression and loneliness.

“As a consequence, age-friendly communities are minimising the interactions older Australians have with GPs and hospitals, while importantly delaying entry into taxpayer funded aged care.

“All of this reduced interaction with health systems generates $945 million in annual savings for the Australian Government while at the same time freeing up aged care beds for increasing demand.

“Given the issues highlighted in today’s report from the AMA and the impending demographic ‘silver tsunami’, governments need to do everything they can to unleash more housing supply, that keeps people healthier and happier for longer,” he said.

Mr Gannon reiterated the RLC’s calls for the Prime Minister to include retirement units in the Australian Government’s 1.2 million new homes target while also removing financial barriers.

“The retirement sector is currently operating at full capacity, planning systems are holding up more supply, and there are too many financial barriers discouraging more older Australians from right-sizing,” Mr Gannon said.

“Urgent reforms to Commonwealth Rent Assistance eligibility and age pension means testing are short-term priorities for industry,” he said.

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