Few people are aware of The Association Group for Retirement Villages, a voluntary organization in Gauteng, which aims to protect the interests of nearly 13,500 residents of affiliated retirement villages.
The organization is currently in its second decade of service delivery and has more than seventy governing bodies as members, mainly in the Pretoria/Centurion area.
Representatives of the management bodies of these villages meet four times a year at one of the member villages to discuss matters of common interest and the ways in which the various problems they have encountered could be resolved. During these meetings experts inform the management bodies of important matters concerning retirement villages. Launch opportunities are from time to time presented to businesses and the marketing of products or services appropriate for residents. Some of these meetings take the form of workshops. Important resolutions are made available to members of the organisation in the form of manuals.
Relevant presentations will in future be made available to members via the website.
The right of existence for the Association Group is largely based on the fact that governing bodies of retirement villages have the responsibility to comply with the laws applicable to them and they are therefore responsible for the management, control and administration. The members of the management bodies are not always fully aware of exactly what are expected from them. Experience has shown that some lawyers and officials who provide information not always realize that retirement villages are not old age homes or ordinary security complexes. Management responsibilities differ substantially although old age homes and places of care also provide accommodation for senior persons. Retirement villages provide accommodation for people over fifty years of age and who are still able to function independently. However, where there is a need for special care, that may vary from periodic by a qualified sister or a fully equipped medical clinic for impaired, as well as post-operative care, on a 24 hour basis could be provided.
The legal basis of retirement villages varies because some villages are exclusively based on occupational rights, allowing the developer to own the land and buildings, where the buyer acquires the right to occupy the particular unit for the rest of his or her life. Some resorts offer sectional title units where the person is owner of the unit, but not of the common property. Other forms that are less common are full-title, leasehold property and share block schemes. Each of these different housing schemes resort under its own law and often some of these units are sold on a life-right basis, while others are sold on the basis of sectional title ownership. The different types of housing resort under different laws. An issue that complicates management is the fact that a care unit in a retirement village resorts under the same law that applies to old age homes.
Some of these laws and regulations which form part some of the legal guidelines, which governing bodies should be aware of, are those applicable to the providing of relevant services to the residents. For example labour and health legislation guidelines, will apply to workers who serve as housekeepers, gardeners, caretakers, cooks, waiters, drivers, etc., for residents. Where meals or medical services are provided to the residents certain laws of and inspections by the central and local authorities must be met. At each retirement village different arrangements exist and members of the management bodies often need support and advice to determine which of these requirements apply to the specific cases.
The Association Group is continuously involved in negotiations with government and other bodies like the SA Human Rights Commission to promote a better dispensation for retirement villages. Efforts are made to propose legislative changes and to implement new legislation in order to address the problems and deficiencies of which the Association Group are aware of. The Association Group thus serves as a channel for individual members to have access to the authorities to try and foster the interests of older people in retirement homes. Many of these elderly people rely on pensions affected by declining purchasing power and therefore there is a great need for their interests to be taken care of. Several other organizations are doing excellent work in other areas that affect older people.
This Association Group is the only body that deals with concerns about the management of retirement villages. The Association Group had in fact in recent years succeeded to persuade the government to introduce legislation to promulgate an ombudsman service as a dispute resolution mechanism for housing development schemes. This should create an affordable channel for residents and management bodies of retirement villages to solve the many housing-related challenges. The Association Group also cooperates with other organisations in the field of gerontology, research and services to older persons.
The governing bodies of retirement villages should continuously strive to enrich the quality of life of their residents. The role of the Association Group in this regard is twofold: Firstly, experts are involved to inform and guide the members about age and age-related issues. Secondly, events are arranged in which residents can participate. Every year a “Vonkeljare Song Festival” is held where singers and choirs from the different retirement villages have the opportunity to participate. It is normally presented in September/October, to coincide with the celebrations of the International Day of Older People and activities of other organizations dealing with matters related to older persons.
Thus far the success and achievements of the Association Group, inspired retirement villages in the Free State and Southern Cape to establish similar organizations. They are supported by providing them with information and assistance in view of mutual cooperation when dealing with inherent problems. Hopefully retirement villages elsewhere in the country will also consider to establish similar organizations in order to join forces and give further impetus to persuade the government to attend to problems and needs of retirement villages.
Copies of the Guidelines for Prospective Buyers in Retirement Villages, published by the Association Group in English, are available free of charge from the Administrative Secretary, Anneke Liebenberg (Cell: 072-349-8395 / E-mail: email@example.com )