Does the idea fill you with dread, or are you excited by the prospect of being a part of an active community of like-minded people?
Firstly, if you are new to this, there’s a big difference between a Lifestyle Village and a Retirement home. Don’t confuse the two and end up in the wrong one. That would be a big mistake. In crude terms, a lifestyle village is for people who still want to manage their own lives. They want to choose what they do, when they do it, and with whom they do it.
In most retirement villages the owners or operators of the village are most likely to be the people who shape how your day looks from what you eat; when people can visit; and to what activities you do. There’s a myriad of reasons why people would swap their traditional suburban homes for a Lifestyle Village which often boasts cinemas, swimming pools, tennis courts, saunas and spas, beauty salons, libraries, gymnasiums, and communal vegetable gardens.
In my working life, I visited many to create stories for advertising and content marketing campaigns. I loved the concept from the moment I walked into my first GemLife village in Logan, just south of Brisbane, and discovered the fully stocked poolside bar, synthetic grass tennis court, and huge auditorium.
My wife, who is five years younger than me, won’t even entertain the idea of moving in. I’d have to drag her along kicking and screaming. My brother lasted 12 months when he moved to a village on the Gold Coast. It wasn’t for him either. He sold up and moved on. They certainly are not for everyone. But it is also not a life sentence. If you don’t enjoy community living you can just move out, and start again somewhere else.
Across Queensland, where I live, there are some 330 registered lifestyle villages – and that number continues to grow every year. It is a very popular option, especially for kid-free couples who want to downsize and potentially put some money into their bank accounts so they can push their retirement dollars as far as they will go. The thing is though, you don’t have to be retired to move in.
Depending on the rules of the Village, only one member of the family needs to be over the specified age (Over 50) to move in and more and more residents are still leaving home to go to work every morning, not retired, just simply residents. Affordability is one of the key reasons people opt-in. Even though house and apartment prices in Lifestyle Villages are rising dramatically (like all real estate), because you don’t actually own the land, the homes are much cheaper than buying a typical suburban house.
Then there’s the opportunity to be part of a community. Villages tend to have shared facilities like clubhouses, swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms, and gardens so through events and gatherings you can quickly grow your circle of friends. Today most of us live in suburban streets where we don’t get to know our neighbours. If the truth be told, very few of us even try to get to know our neighbours.
If you are my age, that’s probably not how you grew up. Back in the 70s, everyone knew everyone in the street and people watched out for each other. People would drop in to water your garden if you were away on holidays, or they’d collect your mail for you – open it – and sort out your bills if you asked them to.
In a lot of cases that’s exactly what Lifestyle Villages are like today. They’re also good for people who find themselves alone through divorce, or sadly following a death in the family. I was speaking with a friend who works in the industry selling homes the other day and he shared the stories of two couples who were buying into his village. In both cases, one of the partners was dying.
One man, only in his early 60s, had pancreatic cancer and wanted to move in as soon as possible so he knew that his wife would be living in a safe environment. The other couple were a little bit older in their 70s and this time the wife was dying. She knew her husband very well, and she also knew that he was a very poor communicator. So, she wanted to help him establish a set of formal and informal friends before she passed away so that he wouldn’t be trapped in the suburbs – all alone.
Don’t think for a moment though that people who move into Lifestyle Villages are slipping quietly into old age. These communities are often hubs of activities with dance classes, wine tastings, cooking lessons and live entertainment. In fact, there’s something happening every night of the week. Quite possibly, these residents are more socially active than they’ve ever been.
Many people who buy into Lifestyle Villages are in fact buying – a lifestyle. They have worked hard their whole lives and believe that now is their time to kick up their heels, smell the Chardonnay, and enjoy themselves. Living somewhere with enhanced security means that they can lock up their homes and come and- go as they like. If they want to spend three months on the road in their RVs, that’s okay, because the house – and all their belongings – are safe. There’s no “dodgy end of the street” in a Lifestyle Village. People tend to feel safe at all times.
If they want to cruise the world spending the money they have saved by moving into the Village, that’s cool too. And if we follow trends from the United States, we can expect to see Lifestyle Villages getting bigger and bigger. Some in the US, boast as many as 70,000 residents.