'Bleed them dry until they die': Shocking claims of retirement village 'bullying' elderly residents

Residents of Australia’s biggest ASX-listed, pure-play retirement village operator have labelled the company a "financial sinkhole" and claimed the operator "bleeds them dry until they die".

Aveo, a financial juggernaut worth about $1.8 billion, is rapidly expanding and has 13,000 residents across Australia in 89 retirement villages, the ABC reports.

Their villages are marketed as a way for older Australians to keep their independence without the burden of maintaining a property.

But an ABC Four Corners/Fairfax Media investigation has revealed claims from residents and former residents of the company staff ignoring illness and bullying residents, while the company tries to move residents on to claim exorbitant exit fees.

Fairfax Media reports the exit fees are quite lucrative for Aveo with Freedom Aged Care villages that sell for $600,000 leading to Aveo pocketing $240,000, after a 40 per cent fee is applied.

Several residents from different villages took part in the investigation. Photo: ABC / Four Corners

Four Corners revealed they have contracts from the 2000's and today that show a 20 per cent hike in exit fees since then, which the company said they "implemented following extensive research of our customer base and now offers major financial benefits that were not included in any of the previous contracts".

Gwyneth Jones, 77 - who has lived at Aveo’s The George retirement village in Melbourne’s Sandringham since 2005 - claims the company has run a long campain to try and evict her.

Attempting to claim she has dementia, Ms Jones says Aveo's treatment of her has been 'demeaning and despicable'.

Ms Jones has made explosive claims about the retirement village. Photo: ABC / Four Corners

Ms Jones claims the company lives by the motto ‘bleed them dry until they die’ and said she was forcibly admitted to a psych ward to “shut me up”.

In June 2009, she was reportedly diagnosed with dementia after she was admitted to Monash Health’s psych ward.

'$10 a bandaid': Resident 'targeted' in long campaign

However, two separate psychiatric assessments conducted after that both suggested she doesn’t have dementia.

"The reason they had me forcibly admitted to the Biala Unit was to punish me, was to shut me up, was to silence me with drugs," she claimed.

Ms Jones said she is subject to daily fees such as charging her $10 for a bandaid and $5 for a cup of milo, and many other regular charges.

She also claims she was also charged when she accidentally locked herself out when she left her key inside her room.

There are claims of mistreatment at Aveo's The George where Ms Jones resides. Photo: Google Maps

"I got charged $10 because I locked my key in the room on a couple of occasions and I had to ask a staff member. It's all documented on the monthly bill - $10 for this, $10 for that. Five dollars for a cup of milo," she told Four Corners on Monday night.

In a lengthy 19-page statement, Aveo denied claims that were put to them by the ABC/Fairfax media investigation including that they were going to evict Ms Jones because “she is difficult and because the company wanted her freehold and exit fees”.

"This is untrue. Aveo's main concern was, and remains, whether the village can properly care for its residents and, given the requirements under State legislation, whether the resident should be actively considering alternate care," the company responded.

"Given the resident’s behaviour and conflicts with other residents, Aveo considered it was appropriate to obtain expert assistance. Kingston Centre was contacted to provide that expert assistance and it was their opinion that the resident should receive psychiatric care and also be placed under guardianship."

The company said it was “committed to enhancing the lives of older Australians by improving living choices”.


'I was left lying on the floor after fall'

John Hayto, a resident at the Aveo facility in Veronica Gardens in Northcote, north Melbourne, claimed he was left lying on the floor for five days after he fell to the ground.

While the resident – who has lived at the centre since 1997 - said it was “partly my fault” because he didn’t have the emergency pendant around his neck or his mobile phone, he claims the facility staff failed to do anything about it when concern was raised for his welfare by a friend.

John Hayto is still recovering from the fall he had several months ago. Photo: ABC / Four Corners

“He [the friend] left his phone number with them, and they said they'd ring him back,” Mr Hayto, said.

“That never happened. The fact is that they were communicated to and they didn't carry out what they should have done, is to come down and check me out physically.”

He is still in a rehabilitation centre after the fall seven months ago.

Aveo responded to the question on the incident put to them by the ABC and said “based on the minimal details provided, Aveo cannot identify any records of such an incident”.

“Our records also show that there have been no requested welfare checks which have been left incomplete within a reasonable amount of time.”


Residents make their 'escape'

While residents remain at the village, some have made the decision to leave “the financial sinkhole”, describing it like “getting out of prison”.

Current resident Monica Johnson also took part in the investigation. Photo: ABC / Four Corners

“Even if they take every penny off you, they'll do it, and if that's the Aveo way, God help us,” resident at Mountain View retirement village in Murwillumbah, northern NSW Monica Johnson, told the program.

“Some of the people who've moved out say it's like getting out of prison. That's a common thing to say.”