Elderly: Focus on regulating retirement villages

With proliferation of retirement villages in recent times, the need now is to put in place regulations to protect the interests of elderly residents of such homes

New Zealand is ageing fast, and with it is the increasing popularity of retirement villages. This has sparked a booming sector worth almost $9 billion with 130 operators, catering to over 10 percent of the over-75 age group nationwide.


But, as expected, with this boom, complaints are rising too, especially with regard to the Occupation Right Agreement (ORA). As noted by The Listener in an article in 2014, the ORA arrangement “can turn out to be a one-sided gamble in which the odds are heavily stacked against vulnerable elderly people when things go bad as revealed by the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake”.

To be sure, rules were revised after the disaster, and now the Retirement Villages Act mandates that prospective residents receive independent legal advise before signing the ORA, and enjoy a 15-day cooling-off period with an option to change his or her decision.

Also, as says The Listener, “A memorandum must also be placed on the title to retirement village land so that if the operator goes bust, the residents can continue living in their homes and the village is kept together as a going concern, rather than being carved up and sold off in bits by a receiver.”

But then, in practicality, everything boils down to the fine prints of the ORA.


Another major concern is the failings in the quality of care provided at these villages.

In 2014, an analysis by Consumer NZ - an independent, non-profit organisation established in 1959 dedicated to getting New Zealanders a fairer deal - revealed that many such facilities around the country are failing to meet the required healthcare standards.

“Of the 123 rest homes audit reports published by the Ministry of Health last year, only 14 met all the criteria they were assessed against,” said the non-profit. Disturbingly, “several facilities have had recurring problems”, and while the organisation has been reporting on shortfalls in rest homes care since 2009, “convincing evidence has yet to emerge that quality of care is improving”.

Types of rest homes audits in New Zealand
(Source: heath.govt.nz)

  • Certification audits happen every 1–4 years

  • An unannounced surveillance audit happens around the middle of a rest home’s certification period

  • Provisional audits happen when a provider purchases a certified rest home from another provider

  • Partial provisional audits happen when a provider wants to add services to their certificate

  • Unannounced ministry inspections under the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001

  • Aged Related Residential Care Contract audits by DHBs