Support needed to encourage independent living

| February 21, 2012

As the Australian population ages, Waldemar Niemotko calls for strata laws that work to encourage seniors to live independently.

The staggering ageing trend has brought a need to encourage as many seniors to live independently where they are, rather than to queue to retirement villages/nursing homes where there are not enough places.

Accordingly, they were prompted to use their life time savings, in order to buy a unit and make all necessary technical adjustments internally.  The cost of maintenance of communal property, though, is to be spent out of their levies’ funds, at discretion of owners’ corporations/ strata agents.

On too many instances, they find themselves on a collision course with profit minded investors.  An affluent person, upon buying a unit, is tempted to upgrade its attractiveness for a better marketing effect.

A case made headlines when a Japanese property entrepreneur convinced a local council to alter use of the premises, something a local journalist has labeled a move in transforming Spit Junction in Mosman into Kings Cross.  When in another suburb the local council refused to build a roof top entertainment facility, the NSW State Government has approved the very project to go ahead.

Should  an ingenious investor choose to set up a roof entertainment area on the top of a residential block of units, an opposing voice from ageing unit owners can hardly be heard.  Strata manager is likely to support a strong party with a bunch of proxies in hand for voting purposes at AGM.  Ageing people are likely to feel underdogs and marginalised, whilst their needs for a quiet place to live being largely neglected.

Existence of support groups has been officially proclaimed..  When the above mentioned problem was brought to attention of the “Diversity & Ageing in Action Forum 2010” on the 10th of May 2010 in the Parramatta Town Hall, a myriad of agencies was recommended. However, all of them refused to extend a support to a frail, disabled person during an AGM, for one-and-half hour. 

The catch prevails that seniors are generally categorised as “asset rich and cash poor” which makes them ineligible for a free Legal Aid service.  A hearing disability would frustrate a telephone consultation.  Not all of them are computer literate in order to access online a free legal information.  An expensive hiring of a solicitor to come to a meeting would look outrageously, resulting in social isolation in the neighbourhood.  CTTT would, probably, not allow for a legal representative of that calibre to plead in a simple strata case.

A call appears to be urgent for a qualified support/advocacy for ageing in their own home, to the benefit of their continued living independently.

Dr Waldemar Niemotko is the President of the Australian International Research Institute, a not-for-profit community organisation promoting cultural awareness.


Strata Consultation Questions:
Q1. What are the main areas of the existing strata and community scheme laws you would like to see changed?
Q2. Can you see any future issues that need to be addressed in the legislation?
Q3. How could the management of strata and community schemes be improved?
Q4. Are there any changes needed to the way disputes in strata and community schemes are resolved?