Retirement villages an essential service

Retirement villages are continuing to operate under COVID-19 Level 4 restrictions after being classified as an essential service. Their inclusion under the Accommodation category followed representation by the Retirement Villages Association (RVA) supported by Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson.

The essential service classification covers all staff, including those involved in catering, caregiving, cleaning, maintenance and administration. It also includes villages’ supply chains of food and equipment, including that required for aged care facilities on many village sites.

“We’re experiencing an increase in calls from family members concerned whether their relative’s village will stay open, and continue to operate as normal considering the circumstances,” says Wrightson. “I want to reassure residents and their families the answer is yes to both questions.”

The Commissioner is participating in a task force convened by the RVA to determine best practice operations under Level 4 and as the environment changes in the future. It issues guidelines for operators and residents, which operators post on their respective websites. Guidelines have been set in case of an outbreak of COVID-19 in a retirement village.

“The rights and obligations of operators and residents under occupation right agreements continue as usual, although both parties have additional duties to observe under the Level 4 requirements,” says Wrightson.

Like all members of the community, this includes social distancing of at least two metres, not travelling outside the local community, and frequent hand-washing. Those aged over 70 are considered high risk and should stay home if they have someone who can drop off food and supplies at their door or the village entrance. If they need to visit the supermarket, they should keep visits to a minimum.

Under Level 4 villages and aged care facilities on village sites are closed to visitors. If a family member is in end-of-life or palliative care, relatives should check with the village operator whether visits are permitted.

Friends and families of residents who are unsure about the welfare or rights of their loved ones should contact the operator of their village in the first instance. If they are still concerned, contact the Retirement Commissioner’s office at