Singapore to build first “retirement village”

After a 20-year debate, Singapore’s first retirement village is to be built in Jalan Jurong Kechil in Bukit Timah.

While many such villages exist in Australia, Japan and South Korea, the momentum in building one in Singapore has often been stalled due to the unavailability of land, the high costs involved, and the general lack of awareness.

Yet new thinking in the country has led property developer World Class Land (WCL) to build a village on a 10,170 sq m plot of land it won a tender last November, as told to The Sunday Times last week.

WCL offered USD 75 million for a 60-year lease on land reserved for residential use, with the tender documents stipulating the developer was free to construct private flats, condominium units or a retirement community.

At the time, WCL did not disclose which option it planned to take up.

Caring for the elderly in Asia; a potential investment boom?

Family ties are still one of the dominant social forces in much of Asia, and as such many individuals are not ready to “give up” their parents to an institution.

Yet in paradigm shifts being felt the world over, many countries are becoming ageing populations.

And with increasingly better facilities and recreational activities offered at retirement centres, many in Asia are now beginning to contemplate the move.

To pick two notable examples, the National Committee on Aging in China predicts that 487 million of its citizens will be over 60 years of age by 2053 – a dramatic increase from the current 185 million.

In addition, United Nations data shows that 8.9% of Thailand’s population was aged 65 and over in 2010, yet is expected to swell to 19.5% in 2030.

Add to these large numbers the steady influx of elderly from the Western world who perceive Asia as a cheap place to retire, and the entire continent represents a business opportunity for property developers, retirement village operators and investors alike.

Virtual villages?

With the aforementioned high cost of land creating difficultly in building these villages in Singapore, another organisation has released plans to create a “virtual” version.

The idea of virtual retirement villages is already popular in America, with communities typically operating on a non-profit basis with revenue coming from donations and membership fees.

The schemes allow the elderly to continue to live at home but have access to all the services they would expect in a purpose-built village, via supplied transport such as buses.

Ageing Asia hopes to have a pilot of the scheme running this month, and will offer transport to medical facilities, exercise classes and cultural sites.

“The whole idea is to support [the elderly] to age and stay healthy at home, yet draw people out of their homes to be socially inclusive in the community,” noted Janice Chia, Managing Director at Ageing Asia.

Beacon Hill Village in the US, which calls itself the world’s first virtual retirement village, charges US$640 (S$794) per person, and Ageing Asia’s pilot is expected to cost individuals S$800 a year.

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