Retirement to Israel has in recent years become a viable and popular option as the market for building independent senior housing units in retirement villages is gaining wider potential in Israel and the demand for quality senior living and a better life for those in their golden years grows.
Old-age homes have always existed in Israel as part of the social system to provide a place for those who cannot care for themselves. However, it is only in recent years that the American idea of retiring to a comfortable community of seniors has turned into an up and coming trend. In the US where the market is more mature, about 10 percent of the active adult community today is moving into senior living communities, whereas in Israel it is about 3% and growing gradually. Over the past 20 years, independent retirement housing units have developed across Israel offering different and higher levels of luxury, services and amenities .
As a result, a large and growing number of senior Israeli citizens and foreign residents are choosing to spend their retirement years in Israel. Great waves of new immigrants to Israel have led some individuals even at very senior age to join their children who have already made Aliyah, while others come on their own to fulfill a Zionist dream of living in Israel. According to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, some 250 to 300 English-speaking immigrants over the age of 75 come to live in Israel each year and numbers have been rising gradually.
In general the Israel real estate market offers two types of retirement options. First are the so-called “Batei Avot“, which are old-age nursing homes licensed and supervised by the Social Affairs Ministry and the Health Ministry. In public old-age homes residents pay monthly maintenance fees, which can range anywhere from NIS 5,000 to NIS 12,000 and more depending on medical situation and amenities required. There are also private Batei Avot homes for the semi-independent and elderly offering apartments that have a range of 1 – 3 bedrooms. In this category residents are often required to pay an entrance fee or a down payment, as well as, a monthly fee which covers maintenance, food, and medicine.
The second retirement housing option which has developed greatly in recent years are so-called “Diur Mugan“ retirement homes or sheltered accommodation, which are essentially private apartment buildings for seniors with some extras. Residents live in one-, two- or three-room apartments which, and unlike in old-age homes, have their own kitchenette and cooking facilities and in some cases space for a washing machine. Apartments are cleaned weekly or daily and have emergency call buttons, but daily checkups on residents are not necessarily made. Within this category the option of more independent and luxurious retirement communities or villages has emerged. Sheltered retirement communities often include swimming pools, gymnasiums, game rooms and libraries and offer a wide variety of activities, from arts and crafts, to exercise classes, concerts and lectures. In addition, most sheltered housing or old-age facilities also hava a separately run Ministry of Health licensed nursing division for residents who need chronic care .
Entry into the sheltered housing could be paid in a number of ways. The most common is the “declining deposit package”. Residents pay a deposit starting at an average of NIS 500,000 to NIS 1.8 million and more for their apartments, as well as a monthly maintenance fee that can range from NIS 3,000 to NIS 5,000. The deposit depreciates by 2 percent annually for 10 to 15 years. If the tenant leaves or dies the remaining deposit, which is at least 70 percecent is returned to the resident or the tenants’ heirs.
One of the examples of the luxurious trend of retirement communities catering for the needs of foreign residents is Beth Protea, which was founded by South African immigrants and where English is the first language. It is located in Herzliya near to a major shopping mall and has 105 self- contained, serviced, apartments, each individually furnished by the resident, comprising a bedroom, living-room, bathroom and kitchenette. There are also a number of 2 bedroom apartments. Facilities include a heated indoor swimming pool and a synagogue. The monthly charge also includes one main meal per day and coverage of electricity and municipal costs and cleaning.
There are also private senior homes in Israel catering for religious residents such as the Ramat Tamir – Neve Hadar Residential Retirement Center and Nursing Home for the Orthodox Community variety located in Jerusalem opposite Har Hotzvim, which keeps Shabbat and is kosher. The facility has apartments, from one to three rooms with kitchenette, for independent and semi-independent seniors offering a variety of activities in both Hebrew and English as about 40 percent of its residents are English-speakers.
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