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Thread: Developers yet to warm to idea for the silver years

  1. #1
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    Default Developers yet to warm to idea for the silver years,00.html?

    Published December 23, 2009


    Developers yet to warm to idea for the silver years

    Most of them cite unfamiliarity and high costs as barriers


    SINGAPORE'S ageing population means a growing need for greater medical care and facilities for the elderly - not least of which would be a retirement village for the more independent-minded.

    Retirement villages or communities are a big business in countries such as the United States and Australia and in Europe, and include amenities such as clubhouses, swimming pools and golf courses, as well as on-site medical facilities. But developers in Singapore are less keen on the concept.

    The government has sought to encourage the development of a retirement community here: In February 2008, it released a land parcel in Jalan Jurong Kechil, close to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, with a 30-year lease, specifically for a retirement village. So far, no one has taken it up.

    A quick check with some of the major property developers revealed that none were willing to venture into retirement villages. Most cited unfamiliarity and high costs as barriers to their entry.

    Ong Choon Fah, executive director in Singapore and regional head of consulting for the global real estate consultant DTZ, told BT that building a retirement village isn't a straightforward task - there are a host of issues that need to be resolved first.

    'I think it's something that will happen in time to come. But, in the meantime, there are some issues that need to be addressed, issues which we've explored with several clients who have expressed an interest in developing retirement homes on the Jalan Jurong Kechil site,' she told BT.

    'First, there's a question of the land. Most of our clients have expressed an interest in a freehold plot, rather than one with a use-by date.'

    'A retirement village also differs from a normal property development because it has other amenities and may need some level of medical care on site. This makes the upkeep of the entire community rather expensive - and such a concept will most likely be targeted at the higher end of the market,' she said.

    But perhaps the most important issue that needs to be addressed is the legislative one. While there are laws to govern home purchases in Singapore, there aren't any relating to transactions in retirement communities - unlike in countries such as the US, Australia and in Europe, where there are well-established laws governing the business.

    Mrs Ong says: 'There's the question of the business model for the retirement village. Will residents buy or rent the units? If they buy it, will they be able to sell or will away their units to their children? Will young people be able to buy? An exit strategy is very important. And there are major issues that need to be worked out to ensure a win-win outcome for all stakeholders involved.'

    Property developer and former Redas (Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore) chief Daniel Teo is up to the challenge. He told BT: 'I want to offer a better lifestyle to the elderly folk here, give them that companionship they need. Develop something that the ambulant can live in comfortably.'

    'But yes, there are issues that need to be worked out - laws that need to be developed. I think the government needs to take the lead in this.'

    'Perhaps I can arm-twist them into developing such legislation when I build a retirement village,' he quips.

    Mr Teo, who is the director of his family businesses Tong Eng and Hong How groups, says he has been searching for years for the perfect site - or the right building - to begin fulfilling his dream.

    He says that property developers such as MCL Land, City Developments and Frasers Centrepoint have approached him to explore the idea of developing a retirement village together.

    'The problem is finding the right piece of land. I've lost out on several deals, despite having done a lot of legwork on them,' he said.

    He has looked at the plot of land released by the government in Jalan Jurong Kechil, in the Upper Bukit Timah area, for a private developer to build a retirement village. 'The problem with that is that the lease (30 years) is just too short. The size of the land and its location (next to some residential housing, close to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve) would be perfect for an idea I have for low-rise retirement housing - maybe a five-storey block here and an eight-storey block there. But the lease needs to be changed. It needs to be extended, or there needs to be an agreement that the lease can be extended, based on a certain agreed sum. Then, it would be workable.'

    Mr Teo has visited various retirement villages and communities around the world to get ideas.

    He recently returned from a trip to Perth, where he found his 'dream' retirement village in St Ives Centro - just minutes from the Subiaco Townsite and the beach. The development is part of the St Ives group, which has several retirement villages across the country. It's designed like a Balinese resort with an indoor heated pool, spa, gymnasium, restaurant, Internet cafe, games room, a bar and a beauty salon. Importantly, the development has 24-hour care, the latest technology emergency call system and is completely surrounded by perimeter fencing for the safety of its residents.

    'This is the standard I'm interested in; this is the sort of retirement village I'm keen on developing in Singapore,' Mr Teo says.

    He told BT that he has already found 'some 20 to 30' like-minded folk, equally keen on developing a retirement village as he is. These include doctors, lawyers, even former Nominated Members of Parliament - 'some of whom have even engaged their own consultants to draw up plans for a retirement village', he said.

    'I hope this will be a reality in my lifetime,' he said.

  2. #2
    mr funny is offline Any complaints please PM me
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    Published December 23, 2009

    A village in which to retire, perchance to dream

    This is among the lifestyle alternatives that S'pore's ageing population will need


    (SINGAPORE) Lush, manicured lawns. Bubbling fountains. Bright, beautiful homes fitted with state-of- the-art living equipment. Residents strolling in the evening light.

    Not an advertisement for a high-end residential development but, rather, a real-life retirement village for older folk with good access to medical care.

    While not yet a reality in Singapore - though incarnations exist in abundance in the US, Europe and Australia - such a development is something society here will need sooner rather than later.

    A recent study by the Lien Foundation revealed that Singaporeans' greatest fear is to be a burden to their family and friends. Among their top five wishes is to spend their final days at home, but with medical and nursing support nearby.

    With the local population fast ageing - almost half are in the 35-64 age group - and with this generation being more affluent and educated, there is a growing need for alternative lifestyle choices for the elderly.

    A retirement village, or community, is one such alternative. Such communities are planned for the retired or older folk, and have special facilities catering to their needs and wants, which include extensive amenities like clubhouses, swimming pools, and golf courses, as well as on-site medical facilities.

    These cater to the wishes of the older folk who prefer to live on their own, with their spouse, or those who have no children in Singapore to look after them.

    One person who feels the need for a retirement village here is Stefanie Yuen Thio, who jointly manages TSMP Law Corporation with her husband, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi. Mrs Thio, who is in her late 30s, tells BT: 'One of the things that people drive home over and over again when they hear that I have only one child is that he will be saddled with having to look after both his parents in his old age. I don't want that.'

    'When Shen and I grow old, we want our son and our grandchildren to want to spend time with us, but not to have to look after our daily living needs. We want (our son) Jonathan to have the freedom to develop his potential and follow his dreams wherever that may lead. I know I am not alone in this,' she says.

    She's not. Adrian Tan, a lawyer with Drew & Napier and author of well-known local novels, The Teenage Textbook and The Teenage Workbook, has been thinking a lot about how he's going to spend his retirement days, now that he's left his teenage years well behind him.

    The 43-year-old, who is married but does not have children, says a retirement community is the most attractive option for him.

    'If we are lucky enough to have good health, my wife and I want to spend our days being active - travelling, learning and being among like-minded people,' he says.

    Mr Tan is drawn to the retirement communities in the West - in the United States, especially, where there are hundreds of well-established retirement community programmes spread out across the country. Such communities have made luxury and independence for their residence a big business.

    'I would really like to remain independent - that's a big thing for me. Even for those who have children to look after them, these older folk are sometimes tolerated, put in the smallest room in the house, their activities dictated by the rest of the family,' Mr Tan says.

    'I would like to preserve my independence, be able to spend my days with my wife as we please, stay in a well-appointed place designed for folks like me, but without the vibe of a nursing home,' he adds.

    Mrs Thio's thoughts echo that: 'I think I, and others like me, would like to have the option of living in an assisted living facility. It would be more a condo with extra amenities and services than an old age home. Everyone has their own serviced apartment, but with extra services.

    'And it's not just about medical care. I think this sort of planning and infrastructure is important for the fabric of our families. When someone is unable to take care of his sick parent, and has to move him into a nursing home, there is often a great deal of financial sacrifice that he has to make just to pay for it. And yet the aged parent feels abandoned and resentful. This drives a terrible wedge into the relationship at a time when the bonds need to be strongest.'

    'We need to have facilities in place where elderly folks can grow old with dignity and grace, not as some invalid in a nursing home in a dormitory with five other beds,' Mrs Thio says.

    But will such a retirement village become a reality in Singapore in the near future? A quick check by BT with the major property developers here indicate a reluctance to venture into such a project - with profitability and legislative issues being their main concerns.

    Hopes for a retirement village rest on one man: property developer and former chief of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas), Daniel Teo, who has made it his life mission to build such a retirement community in Singapore.

    The 66-year-old, who is married to former ballerina Goh Soo Khim, has four children and six grandchildren. But he's sensitive to the needs of others who don't have so many offspring.

    'Families are getting smaller, these days. Children study and then work abroad and are separated from their parents. More and more young people are choosing to not get married, not have families,' he told BT.

    'I feel for a lot of seniors, who have been driven out of their homes by en bloc sales, and those whose children don't live close to home. I would like to have a community where the older folk can live independently - preferably with some middle-aged people as well - along with assisted care and even a nursing home; several stages together.'

    'There is definitely a need for a retirement community here,' Mr Teo said. 'But yes, there are issues that need to be worked out - laws that need to be developed.'

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