For most Australians, our home is a huge emotional commitment. It is the centre of our personal universe. These things don’t become any less important when we consider how we want to live in retirement.

Below you will find information comparing different types of retirement living options.


It’s a simple fact that retirement villages and residential aged care are just not the same thing. Retirement villages and residential aged care facilities are designed for people at different stages of life and with very different needs.

They both provide accommodation for older Australians but that’s where the similarities end.

Understand the differences

Living options


Housing options for seniors come in many different forms to suit different budgets, lifestyles and needs.

Retirement villages differ in size, location, home type, facilities, suitability for different ages and needs, and of course cost. Some villages consist of detached homes, others have townhouses. Low-maintenance home designs make daily living easier, and for those who want to travel, you can simply lock up and leave.

Homes on the ground level will usually have their own private courtyard or garden so if you’re a bit of a green thumb there is still space to tinker or just quietly enjoy your own little sanctuary. There are also car parking options ranging from car spaces to lock up garages, and some provide the option to store your caravan or boat.

These days, some retirement villages are vertical, like apartment blocks in inner city locations, but still with everything you would need at the press of an elevator button.

Ownership options vary as well. You can own your home and land, you can own your home and rent/lease your land or you can rent/lease it all. There are brick and tile, timber and tin, mobile home-style communities…just about every option under the sun.

All retirement villages have an ‘operator’ but these vary greatly too. Operators can be large national companies, small private village managers or not-for-profit (or ‘for purpose’) organisations.

Each state and territory in Australia has its own legislation which governs the operation of retirement villages (more on this later), so some things will vary depending on where you are going to live.

It really helps to do your homework and know what types of retirement living are out there when making your decision.


The most common retirement village style in Australia consists of Independent Living Units (ILUs) or villas within a village setting. These are private dwellings, commonly with between one and four bedrooms, developed for those who wish, and are able, to live relatively independently. The house and land are bought, leased or licensed by individuals but the communal property – gardens, parks, roadways and community centres – are generally owned, managed and maintained by the village operator.

Homes can be built as either stand-alone houses, townhouses, terrace houses or apartments in medium or high-rise developments. Most are similar to regular homes, with garages and private outdoor spaces.

This option is popular with people who want to live independently and require little or no assistance with daily activities but who also want to enjoy the social environment and support of a village community.

Should you require some additional assistance as you age, this can be provided to you through access to visiting services such as home care support.


Serviced apartments are also a popular model and generally comprise apartment-style or semi-detached homes with one to two bedrooms.

This living style offers the safety and security of 24-hour support and access to living assistance. Apartments can be part of a low density, suburban village or a medium to higher density apartment-style complex.

Some support services will be included in your standard supported living package, such as meals, linen, laundry service and apartment cleaning. Others services may be available as fee for service. How much or how little support you receive is entirely up to your needs, however a minimum amount can apply.

It is important to speak with individual operators about what is and isn’t included as part of their service apartment offering.


Land Lease Communities (or LLCs) can also be known as ‘manufactured home estates’, ‘mobile home communities’ or ‘resort communities’. 

The concept of a land lease community grew out of the caravan park industry, which has always had a mix of temporary and permanent residents and is becoming a popular and affordable option for retirees – particularly those who might not want to tie themselves to one location. 

There are several major factors which differentiate land lease communities from other seniors housing options:

  1. Land lease communities are not retirement villages. They are regulated under residential parks or residential tenancy legislation, not retirement village legislation.

    LLC residents usually pay a weekly site fee (or rent) to the land owner/operator of the community. This fee commonly covers management and maintenance of the community and associated facilities.

    Because LLCs are governed by different legislation, the rights and responsibilities of both the residents and the village operator can vary from those of retirement villages.
  2. In a land lease community, you own your home, but you lease (or rent) the land on which it sits. In theory, you could pack up your home and relocate it elsewhere, although people rarely do.
  3. Residents of LLCs may be entitled to Commonwealth Rent Assistance.
  4. It is the individual home owners’ decision how much age-supportive design they wish to include in their home. 

Outside of the land ownership structure, LLCs do have many similarities to those communities which are legally considered to be retirement villages, including:

  • communal facilities including community centres, games rooms, swimming pools and other leisure opportunities
  • community activities and social programs
  • ability to access Federal Government support for in-home care. 

Key things to know:

  • Some LLC operators are partnering with providers to offer residential aged care facilities on adjacent land to support ageing residents.
  • While some LLCs may be more affordable, residents in an LLC may also have a lower security of tenure.
  • Because they are administered under different legislation, the agreement or contract you have with your LLC will be very different to that of a retirement village. Similarly, any ongoing fees and charges – including exit fees on departure from the LLC – may also differ.

Make your wise move