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  • Choosing the right kind of home in retirement can be a challenging exercise. (Flickr)Source: Flickr
When they retire, many people choose to relocate or downsize from their family home but choosing the right kind of home can be a challenging exercise. *To hear the English story click on the AUDIO tab*
Amy Chien-Yu Wang

8 Jul 2015 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2015 - 10:59 AM

Researchers say key issues facing older people are loneliness, social isolation, mobility, access to transport and economic hardship. 

It's vital to keep these factors in mind when planning for relocation later in life.

University of New South Wales Director of the Australian School of Architecture Bruce Judd is a housing expert.
He says most Australians over 50 years of age prefer to stay in their current home rather than downsizing or moving elsewhere but their health can play a major role.

"Certainly one of reasons people do move or downsize is because they're finding it difficult to maintain the house or the yard and the house so that can often precipitate a move from people and often that happens suddenly if someone develops a disability or an illness which makes it difficult for them to do the maintenance - it becomes a kind of crisis point for them and then they have to move in response to a crisis."

His advice is to plan early as finding the right place to live can be difficult.

"The kind of thing people are looking for is often fairly rare. So what people would like is probably more housing which is a bit smaller than the typical suburban house, not on a big block maybe a cluster of houses that are single level houses with small courtyards, close to facilities, services like shopping centres or other town centres where people can walk, conveniently get to services including public transport."

And not finding an ideal place to live could be the reason many choose to stay put.   

"Most people still stay in their own homes.  People can get their home modified it can get expensive. People on low incomes can get support for that. But its much more expensive to modify a home than to build a home correctly in the first place. It's actually cheaper than paying in the long term for a lot of people to modify their homes. People who are getting older and moving into two storey houses, I would suggest they look for houses that have a bedroom on the ground floor."  

The government is also encouraging people to stay in their home for as long as possible. The Federal Government funds home care packages which provide different levels of assistance for mainly frail older people to remain in their own homes. The number of packages will increase over the next two years to 100,000.   

Rosa Colanero is CEO of Adelaide-based Multicultural Aged Care.

She says most older people prefer to receive support at home rather than relocating to an aged care facility, something CALD (or culturally and linguistically diverse people) have long called for.

"And the CALD communites really have been leaders in that, they've been saying that for a while. There are a suite of services that are available to support people to stay at home so they can have people going to their homes to provide personal care like showers etc, they can have their house looked into for you know like in in showers for rails to assist them with that - so there's a whole suite of services which are there to support the older person stay at home as long as possible."

Rosa Colanero says the government's home care package can also assist those living in retirement villages.

"There was a time when if you were in a retirement village you couldn't have access that home support or home care options whereas they've loosened that up so that what's possible now you can be in a retirement village set up and receive services."

She believes retirement villages aimed at servicing particular cultural groups will become a new trend for the ethnic community.

"Here in South Australia we have one which is an Asian one mainly Vietnamese in a certain part of Adelaide where there's quite a few in that area and its working really well that the older people have feel, they described it as a village environment, where they can sort of go, where the one that I'm talking about is in a cul-de-sac it's got eight units they live in separate units and they can sort of come together and they can speak Vietnamese etc."

With one in four older Australians coming from a culturally diverse background, Rosa Colanero says there will be an increasing need for housing suitable to specific communities.

"As older people and that's all older people, as they age many of them do actually revert to primary languages and cultures. And so they feel a lot more comfortable in a place where the language where they understand the language spoken, where the food options are more to their understanding and preferences and all of those things."

Meanwhile, more Australians are choosing to live with their extended family members. UNSW's Bruce Judd says his studies show one in five Australians are living in multi-generational households.

"Well our research is showing multigenerational living is increasing and that's driven by a number of things its driven partly by the fact that there's a lot of immigrants coming from cultures where multigenerational living is much more normal but also people are doing it for financial reasons because of the difficulty with housing market in Sydney particularly - young people are often staying at home longer even thought they're independent they'er still staying at home and sharing the cost of living together with family and this probably will continue to increase."

Jan Gray and her husband live in a multigenerational household with their eldest daughter's family and youngest daughter.  The Brisbane-based family of nine moved to a six-bedroom house last year.   Jan says the arrangement is beneficial for the entire family.

"The pros go on.  It's delightful for us to be with grandchildren. Our kids have great adult company. We just enjoy conversations thought through. We sort of help each other figure out problems around the home. They have their own separate space and that we don't go into their space without knocking and they don't come up into our living space without knocking."

Jan acknowledges living with a big family can sometimes be challenging.  So they've put measures in place to avoid conflicts.

"We have a few ground rules.  We've set it up that we will meet and talk about how things are going every few months, or people can raise issues."

To keep matters simple, the mortgage is under Jan and her husband's names while the rest of the family pay rent.

"We looked at sharing a mortgage but that starts gets more complicated and ties them into a situation that we haven't, none of us have tried before so we chose go just the simple way.  We have the mortgage and they pay a rent to us. We've tried to make it so everybody is free to move around as they need to be so if doesn't work out for them to be here so that they can move we would just rent their quarters to somebody else."

For more information on aged care services, visit or consult your state or territory government's website.