A retirement village is slated to become the biggest land leased developed site in South Australia’s Riverland.
- The Waikerie Lifestyle Village will nearly double its available homes when work finishes
- It is hoped that the works will attract additional services to the town and wider region
- This comes with a gradual decline of services available in Waikerie, including its birthing services
Waikerie Lifestyle Village is in the process of constructing 81 new homes which it says will help bring new services and opportunities to the town and region.
Village operator The Edwards Group said the completion of the building would make the village the largest developed land lease in the Riverland.
“We believe it’s going to be of huge benefit to Waikerie, both in the short term during the construction phase but importantly in the long term, moving forward,” Edwards Group chief executive Stephen Edwards said.
“It’s certainly one of the biggest developments in terms of housing that Waikerie has seen in recent times.”
Concerns about services keeping up
According to the Council on the Aging (COTA) SA, the number of people in the Riverland aged over 50 is growing faster compared to the overall population.
Between 2000 and 2016 in the Loxton Waikerie council area, the number of people over the age of 50 grew by 995.
However, the overall population only increased by 126, indicating younger people were leaving the region and there was an influx of older residents.
Other council areas in the region showed similar trends, with the Berri Barmera area losing 390 people but gaining 800 residents who were over the age of 50.
A report by COTA SA into the difficulties faced by an aging population listed a number of issues that would particularly affect rural retirees.
They included social isolation, unemployment, and access to healthcare when compared to their metropolitan counterparts.
The health system in the Riverland and Mallee has concerned some locals in the region, with prolonged efforts to attract medical professionals to fix these problems.
When works finish on the build, the lifestyle village will have the capacity to house more than 225 residents — running the risk of compounding issues.
Mr Edwards said in his experience, services followed the people and the demand they brought.
“We see this as a catalyst for more shops to open, keeping [them] open longer, more services to be provided in town,” he said.
“What that means for Waikerie is more residents, more money being spent in town… it means that there are going to be more requirements for service providers.
“Even pre-COVID there was significant demand for lifestyle retirement living in Waikerie.”
In a statement, COTA SA said flexibility for retirees was important.
“Increased retirement living options like Lifestyle Villages may entice older South Australians to move to the regions, [but they] need to be supported by a very practical response to the challenges and possibilities that face our increasingly older regions,” it said.