A push for apartment-style retirement living is altering the housing makeup of Sydney’s suburbs and putting pressure on local council services that cater to the elderly.

With more older Australian’s wanting to stay near friends and family in retirement, avoiding retirement villages and aged care homes, councils say local communities are feeling the pressure of new aged-care developments.

The population of over-65s is predicted to increase by 85 per cent over the next 25 years and the NSW government wants more mixed-use, medium-density developments to create “self-contained, walkable and highly liveable communities”.

Willoughby Councillor Wendy Norton, in Sydney’s lower North shore, said there was a lot of pressure from the government to increase density.

There’s only a certain saturation point you can have with these types of developments.

“It’s all very well to say increase the density, like people have to have somewhere [but] look at the children here – they have to have somewhere to play,” she said.

“One of the biggest problems for older people is if you live a long while, chances are your friends have died so it’s important to be near family.”

In Castle Cove, a suburb of Willoughby, an additional over 55s retirement village development has been proposed of 15 town houses on two neighbouring blocks of land, adding to the already 76 town houses in the Watermark facility down the road.

Castle Cove resident Julie Greening said she was concerned about the increasing number of large-scale apartment developments being proposed.

“This is a residential area, it’s low density,” she said. “I think it’s very important to keep [apartments] near the city centre.

“I think they are worried about having a large development next to their home. There’s only a certain saturation point you can have with these types of developments.


Watermark apartments for the elderly in Castle Cove.

The changing market of more older Australian’s living independently has also meant rising strain on community services to provide at home health care.

A report by the Parliamentary Budget Office predicts that from 2028 $18 billion will be spent on aged care with a majority of residential and home care services.

Willoughby Council has also experienced growing strain on home services such as the shuttle bus, linen changing volunteers and grocery shoppers.

“Over time as the need increases, we will have to increase that,” said Councillor Norton.

In a 2020 Royal Commission report into aged care, young Australians were asked if and when they needed care or support in older age where would they want it and 50 per ent answered ‘current home’. This increased to 80 per cent when surveying the current 70s to 80s population.