Talking business with Anthony Haas

Growing older in Greytown

The now closed Ultimate Care facility in East Street

The retirement industry

The corporate sector is investing in aged care facilities. Those including Somerset and Ryman continue to choose places outside Greytown for their retirement village complexes.

The industry definition of retirement village is an assembly of facilities with some or all of the following; independent self-contained villas, assisted living serviced apartments, rest home, hospital and dementia units.

The majority of large retirement villages are now owned and operated by corporates with smaller community owned complexes, such as Arbor House, run by charitable trusts, church groups and local communities.

Smaller Greytown does not seem to be attractive to operators who provide a full range of facilities. The explanation may be the high capital cost and lack of a resourced population to buy into them. Cost to construct a large facility is much the same in any location in New Zealand. The cost to buy into a village is based on the prevailing property prices in the local area. Consequently Greytown’s small population base may not appeal to retirement industry corporates as having an attractive return. Is there some other option that real estate businesses might enable?

Local growth

The baby boomer population and parallel growth of corporate retirement village business has resulted in a much more sophisticated industry with corresponding regulatory environment, making it much more difficult for smaller operations to be viable. It also creates the opportunity to develop more niche operations.

Recently many smaller aged care facilities operated by local groups, charitable trusts, and private operators have closed, and are still closing due to higher overheads, changes in wage structures and much higher compliance costs.

Ropata Lodge in Lower Hutt illustrates how others dealt with viability challenges. The charitable trust went into liquidation however, a private operator was able to take over the facilities, restructure the operation and convert it to a DHB certified rest home. People involved with Ropata say it shows that to be successful, a rest home would require at least 40 rooms.

Greytown residents who may wish to remain close to friends, relatives and who need essential services, with niche operations perhaps based around the family home, marae, communal living, and community facilities could stay in the area.

Greytown could find ways to expand and operate Arbor House as the hub for services the community says they need. For instance cleaning, nursing, meals, personal care, lawn mowing, laundry, household maintenance and fire wood.

Stakeholders could come together to chart the way ahead. Failure to do this may see closure of places like Arbor House and oblige elderly locals to leave the area. Public meetings of stakeholders, including parliamentarians, councillors, the DHB, residents, families, Arbor House board, community organisations, and interested parties, discussing how to put flesh on these bones could be convened.

Thus, a strategic plan to get Arbor House in a strong financial position with existing plus expanded facilities needs to be developed. The physical constraints of expansion of Arbor House and the financing of any expansion are particular issues to be grappled with.

Now the election is over there is a need to be met. Who will take the initiative?