Aged-care in Northland “on the verge of being overwhelmed”
Older New Zealanders looking for long-term accommodation and middle-aged children eager to find facilities for their parents are driving high demand for retirement accommodation in the wider Bay of Islands area. But one of only a few aged-care providers in the District is sounding the alarm about health implications for the elderly.
Kerikeri Retirement Village chief executive Hilary Sumpter said her team had been astonished by persistent high demand for accommodation throughout June and July. Enquiries after lock-down resumed at pre-COVID levels and have continued to trend upwards since then.
Between the beginning of May and the end of July it saw a 50 percent increase over January and February figures in enquiries about availability of its independent-living retirement cottages. It saw a 280 percent increase in enquiries about its new apartments, although much of this additional interest will have been driven by advertising over this period. Three of these have sold since New Zealand returned to Public Health Alert Level One and residents have moved in.
The Village signed seven Occupational Rights Agreements in July alone. It usually signs just one a month.
“It’s as if COVID never existed,” Ms Sumpter said. “Or perhaps it’s because COVID does exist and people are looking to attractive rural centres like Kerikeri, where they feel less exposed, in greater numbers than ever before.”
Simon Upperton of Borders Real Estate in Kerikeri said the demand for retirement accommodation was mirrored by other parts of the market.
“Enquiries and website views are on average 60 percent higher than pre-COVID levels, and this is across a wide range of properties from lifestyle to residential, lower-priced and the very high end,” he said.
“Sales in June in Kerikeri and Waipapa bounced back to a little above the seasonal average. There is a noticeable influx of out-of-town buyers, particularly from Auckland, but also from other parts of the country. It’s pleasing to note that among the large number of retirees there are also many young families making the move to take up well-paid jobs created by the large amount of investment pouring into the Far North.”
New Zealand needs to “wake up and wise up”
Ms Sumpter says the national shortage of retirement accommodation for New Zealand’s swelling “silver tsunami” is a growing social issue. One the country cannot keep ‘kicking down the road’.
However, she’s concerned that the handful of aged-care providers in Northland and in other parts of New Zealand, are on the verge of being overwhelmed by the number of elderly pouring into the provinces.
“It’s a ridiculous situation on a number of levels,” she said. “Firstly, why are our civic and political leaders apparently comfortable with the fact that aged-care provision in our provincial centres is provided predominantly by under-funded, under-resourced and hopelessly-stretched charitable community organisations like ourselves and the Claud Switzer Memorial Trust Rest Home and Hospital in Kaitaia?
“And secondly, why are they giving the green light to more and more developers who appear interested only in building retirement accommodation while swerving adroitly past the need for bed-care facilities for the people who will occupy those dwellings? While these developers say they are going to build care, there is little evidence of this being turned into a reality.”
Ms Sumpter said retirement accommodation and aged-care provision were two sides of the same coin.
“They’re like the proverbial chicken and egg. Which should we attend to first? At Kerikeri Retirement Village we’re building more retirement accommodation so we can earn the money we need to expand our aged-care facility. Others appear to be building it so they can off-shore the proceeds to their institutional investors.”
New Zealand needed to “wake up and wise up” to the impact of the silver tsunami in its provinces, she said. The country needed to compel the developers of retirement accommodation to invest in modern, dedicated aged-care provision.
“The pips are squeaking! Politicians speak loudly about the need for infrastructural investment in our regions. Well, I’d suggest that proper, First World aged-care facilities, which are well-known to be major employers and down-stream generators of regional wealth, may well be a sound home for some of the seemingly endless billions on offer.”
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