Over the past few months, I’ve read several advertorials for retirement villages. I’d like to share my experience of retirement living having recently just passed the five-year mark of living in one in Tanunda, South Australia.
First some background. My family and I lived in the Northern Territory for around 28 years, most of which were at Alice Springs which is where we lived when we decided to retire from the workforce. Fifty years at work had been enough and Alice Springs isn’t a good place to retire because of its isolation and associated travel costs.
We weren’t sure where we would retire after having lived in most states of Australia but while caravanning drove into Tanunda in the Barossa Valley and decided it would be a wonderful place to live; 80 km from Adelaide with easy road or air access to visit our children and grandson still in Alice Springs. We had a rental property on the Gold Coast in which we had planned to retire, but the Gold Coast became less attractive to us as the years progressed towards retirement.
The options for our final accommodation were either to buy a house or buy a block of land and build on it. Either option seemed unsuitable since the first would involve stamp duty which we had paid on several previous houses and didn’t want to pay again. Building sounded like a nightmare with shortages of tradespeople, steel, and timber, and the likelihood of inordinate delays.
I Googled “retirement villages Barossa” in my browser and found two responses, one of which was a possibility. It was an independent living set-up, with three brand-new three-bedroom houses available for us to inspect. This was in November 2017 after living two years in a caravan, so we jumped at the chance to inspect the three properties choosing the one we preferred. We signed up and moved in on Australia Day, 2018.
Viewing the houses was a surprising and pleasing experience. Like many, we had expected small houses but the houses were all excellent builds with first-class fittings, wider than normal halls and full-thickness, wide doors. The main bedroom ensuite was larger than expected and the second bathroom was huge by common standards. The rooms were all large enough for us. One we turned into a craft room for my wife which she soon filled with furniture, fabric, sewing machines, overlockers and some other things beyond my comprehension. Another room is outfitted with a spare bed for visitors and has a desk at which I’m sitting while I type. We have a one-car garage, but some houses have two garages.
We were a little perplexed by the width of the halls, doorways and shower recesses but eventually learned they are built to allow wheelchair access if either of us deteriorates physically to the stage where we need wheelchairs. We can stay in our house without having to modify it.
We purchased a Lease for Life and pay a monthly general-purpose fee that covers the costs of maintenance, lawn mowing, rates, water, and other services provided by the retirement village that includes a range of social activities, happy hours, and some support if we need it. We pay our own electricity bill. All told it’s a good deal, we avoided wasting tens of thousands on stamp duty and when the last of us dies, our children will receive 70 per cent of the resale value within a legally specified period.
It was an excellent opportunity and we struck it rich. Our neighbours without exception are lovely, friendly people and I often joked that had I known how good it was living here, I would have moved 20 years ago – impracticable of course. We get together monthly for a few nibbles and drinks in a pagoda within the complex and look after each other like a family. People in the Barossa are friendly, decent people and have accepted us without hesitation. My wife is involved in numerous craft groups that seem to keep her busy most days of the week. We both volunteer and as a RAAF veteran, I’m heavily involved with the RSL sub-branch and Legacy and also attend a Men’s Shed. We often wonder how we ever had time to go to work.
There is a range of social activities provided by the retirement village at its head office in Nuriootpa (6 km away) and free bus transport is available for many of the events. Some events eg, trips to various places like Hahndorf require a nominal payment and some of these are subsidised for people on certain government programs. The retirement village also has a Residential Care facility at Nuriootpa for people with high dependence needs, a respite block of units, and several nice units where people can live independently with minimal assistance. Thus, there are three tiers, fully independent living, independent living with meals and some other services provided, and full residential care.
Last year an aquatherapy pool was constructed in Nuriootpa and has been an extremely popular addition.
My retirement village’s motto is, “People at Our Heart” and as a community-based organisation not focused on profit, it practices what it preaches in everything it does.
We’re incredibly happy we decided to spend our last days at a retirement village and highly recommend it as a lifestyle choice, especially in these days of inordinately high house prices.