Retirement villages and their difficulties

28 March, 2023

I thank the member for Mayo for bringing this motion before the House. For all of us who have been serving in this place for a long time, there's not one of us who hasn't come across somebody who has had a difficulty with a retirement village or the stages that they're going through in their lives. I note that the member for Boothby just said there are some five million people moving into this category of the Australian community, and they've served this nation very, very well. They also provided for themselves well. In doing so, they go to another stage of life, another opportunity. I always see it as another opportunity, whether it be going into a retirement village or associated body like retirement villages—lifestyle villages. Some people are going into lifestyle villages when they're over 50 years of age, because they choose to do it, especially if they're single women. It gives them a community around them, it gives them activities to do and it gives them interaction with other people without having to go outside of their village. It gives them the protection and care that is surrounded in that process.

There are also, as has been stated today, financial arrangements entered into for people going into lifestyle villages—selling their own home or moving from a rental into a lifestyle village, for the financial benefit of that—and then perhaps others moving into retirement villages. We've all got them in our community. They are large. There are a lot of people who have chosen that lifestyle now. However, I had one experience the other day whereby a gentleman and his wife—and his wife was considerably unwell—moved into a lifestyle village but that lifestyle village was too loud for his wife. It would be normal for us but her particular needs were quietness and that lifestyle village couldn't provide it so he couldn't stay there. He had to go into an aged-care facility. The problem with going from one situation into another into another is the loss of funds that you have entered into. It was a product in one way. In one way it may not meet the state definition or the federal definition of a financial product but it actually is a financial product. You are entering into an agreement. And if you don't stay for very long, for whatever reason—be it morbidity or whatever the situation is — you're still responsible to pay what you agreed to pay when you left the village. Whether it be three weeks, six months, two years, five years it doesn't matter. So if you are only there for a brief time and you need to go to another one you're going to have to pay. There are consequences for that and they are financial consequences.

We were all trained in our secondary years—in accounting anyway—about caveat emptor: let the buyer beware. Why do they go to a particular retirement village? Because their friends recommend it. They say, 'It's wonderful and we are having a beautiful time here. We love what we're going et cetera.' So the input into what the financial arrangements might be might not be as rigorous as you would expect. I don't think many of them ring their solicitor, if they have a solicitor, and say, 'Would you look at this agreement I'm entering into and give me some recommendations that I should highlight here so I fully understand it?'

In another situation, I spoke to a man whose wife was going into an aged-care facility. He was wanting information from the provider that the provider clearly wasn't prepared to give, or wasn't able to give, or didn't want to give—I don't know. He was a highly articulate, highly intelligent older person and he was asking questions that he needed to know answers to before he signed up. He was getting accounts that he thought he shouldn't have been getting and what was I to do about it? As a local member you're not necessarily on top of every financial contract that somebody has entered into. You expect that's for the experts—for the solicitors and the accountants — not Russell Broadbent, MP for Monash. But we're quite prepared to go back to myGov. MyGov is interesting. I don't know how to explain that. It is sometimes not the exact place to go. Thank you, Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on this motion.

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