In Lifestyle on Wednesday 17th Apr, 2019

Downsizing in real life: What it feels like to change homes AND states

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Susan Snare said she wanted greater freedom, less maintenance and more time for family.

You’ve no doubt read plenty about the benefits of downsizing – less expensive and time-consuming home maintenance, more hours in the day for fun, plus the potential for moving near other friendly retirees, saving money on boring outgoings and even boosting your retirement income.

But does the reality match up to the hype? The only way to know is to find out from 60-pluses who’ve actually done it, so Starts at 60 spoke to Ian and Susan Snare, who changed states, home and lifestyle all at once after retiring from their counselling and nursing jobs.

The Tasmanian couple sold their family home, offloaded 40 years’ worth of belongings and moved to the Sunshine State in 2018.

Done with DIY

Ian and Susan’s original retirement plan was to keep their base in Tassie but spend winters in Queensland.

“My parents, who were getting quite elderly, three brothers, two of our sons and all our grandchildren are in Queensland, so it made sense to come up here,” Susan explains. “The other part was the warmer weather, because the cold was really affecting me, and it was hard fighting a cold house.”

And after a grey nomad-style trip to Queensland, the idea of a permanent move began to look even more attractive.

“We had a large family home on a large block with a huge veggie garden and an enormous work shed and it was hugely demanding,” Ian says. “It’s all those little things put together. I’d often take four or five trays of pruning to the tip and I’d cut over 10 tons of wood a year for our fire.

“If we went away on trips, we’d work like mad before we left to make sure the property was looked after, then we’d come home to a week’s worth of hard work to get it up to scratch again.”

“We were finding the large property too much. We were ready for a smaller space,” Susan adds. “We wanted a simpler life with a lot less work – greater freedom, less maintenance and more time with family.”

So, Ian and Susan searched Brisbane’s suburbs for the perfect house to settle down in, but nothing seemed to fit.

“We’d sit outside the front of the house that was for sale and we’d say, ‘Alright, if we lived here, what are the facilities, what community things could we get involved in?’,” Ian says. “And we thought, ‘Gee, it’s going to be really difficult to get into meeting new friends’ as a recently retired couple.”

Apartments were written off for the same reason. “You could be very lonely coming in at this sort of age when you haven’t got children as a common link or anything,” Susan says.

Ian and Susan’s search eventually led them to gated communities in the Sunshine Coast area, but the first few they visited were too basic – the couple wanted seriously good amenities if they were going to switch from a residential property to community living. Then, they happened upon Halcyon Glades in Caboolture.

Halcyon is an award-winning developer of over-50s lifestyle communities, with seven locations in south-east Queensland, all with a simple financial structure for buying in to, resort-style facilities and a range of different styles of home to choose from, all created to require minimal maintenance and running costs.

Halcyon Glades has all of the five-star facilities you’d expect of a resort, plus caravan and boat storage for keen travellers. It is near the Moreton Bay Marine Park and only an hour’s drive from the D’Aguilar Range National Park.

“We came in and had a look and I could see the advantages of it,” Susan recalls. “The facilities were attractive as well as the home.”

But Ian wasn’t won over quite as quickly.

“For me, it was a slower process,” he says “I had a big veggie garden, a massive workshop, I wondered what I was going to do without them … But I could see that we’re in our mid-60s, and we thought – well, we can buy another house but we’re going to have to repeat this process again in our mid-70s.

“We asked ourselves should we make this move now, instead of later and do all the stuff we really want to do, like take our caravan around the country.”

Expectations versus reality

Ian was particularly worried, though, that community living would be like existing in a fishbowl, with neighbours on the doorstep all the time. But that hasn’t been the case, thanks to the clever design of Halcyon’s communities.

“The design of the house is brilliant,” Ian reckons. “If you’re keeping to yourself for the day, you can sit out the back of your house, you don’t see anybody, you don’t hear anybody. But if you want to catch up with somebody, all you’ve got to do is sit on the front veranda and you’ll end up with conversations galore.”

Susan has joined a quilter’s group and taken up aqua aerobics – something she admits she would never have done if she’d stayed in suburbia because it would’ve meant driving to a local pool.

The men aren’t left out of the entertainment, either; Ian’s joined an all-male singing group. “I think we laugh more than we sing,” he jokes.

Getting settled in the community and making friends turned out to be fairly easy. Susan said the village sets up newcomers with a buddy who takes them to social events and introduces them to others.

“Plus, we have very nice neighbours who were welcoming, so it hasn’t been a difficult process,” Susan says, while Ian judges their new social life as better than the one they’d developed after 40 years in Tasmania.

“Just last night, we were watching evening bowls and there was another guy there that’s got a motorcycle,” Ian explains. “He said, ‘There’s two others in the village. We’re going to have to start doing some rides together’. You’ve got all these opportunities that you wouldn’t find in a block of flats.”

If you’re thinking about moving into a lifestyle community but not sure it’s the right choice for you, Susan recommends visiting your local community to talk to the homeowners.

“Halcyon has an insider’s tour where you can come for a free meal with some residents, it’s very casual,” she says. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people who found that really good in helping them make a decision.”

Smaller home, bigger lifestyle

Looking back, Ian and Susan feel they’ve made the right decision in moving into a lifestyle community sooner rather than later.

“We see a lot of other people here in our village that have done it in their mid-70s or 80s, and they are exhausted,” Ian explains. “They’ve kept that big house, they’ve kept that big block, and they’ve worked themselves into the ground. They come here and the question is often, ‘Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?’.

“Just talking to people here, the big lesson is do it early, then you’ve still got the energy to get involved in all the activities.”

“When you have a large space, you’re always conscious of things to be done. You never quite can sit back and say, ‘Right, we have nothing to do’,” Susan adds. “Here, there’s plenty of opportunities to do what you want to do, but nothing you have to do.”

Having now been homeowners in Halcyon Glades for more than a year, the couple can’t recommend community living highly enough.

“The benefits of downsizing are great. It’s a chance to get involved in new things,” Susan says. “We now have more freedom to relax and we see ourselves as being able to go caravanning or on holidays because we’re not tied to the house and garden.”

As for Ian, he just says he loves the place, adding, “It’s better than I thought it would ever be.”

Do you think maintaining your family home will ever be too much for you? Would a low-maintenance property make life easier?

Halcyon

Halcyon’s award-winning lifestyle communities are based on a simple and transparent financial structure that gives our homeowners more freedom and flexibility to enjoy the best years of their lives. Find out what you’re missing and open the door to a new way of living at Halcyon.

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