‘What to look for when deciding where you will retire in Australia’

Dec 04, 2021
Jill's list of considerations for retirement location is long, but there are two things that need special thought. Source: Getty Images

Moving in retirement can be exciting as well as daunting for some people. Having researched more than 200 locations in Australia to retire, my checklist is long, with additional items being added. There’s a lot to cover such as looking at an area’s facilities, utilities, climate, real estate, interviewing community members, new retirees, medicos, business owners and that’s only a few items to be ticked off.

Check out the local demographic

Finding a retirement location where you feel welcome and part of the community is also important, particularly for single people. A woman from Sydney contacted me recently to say she’d moved to northern New South Wales in retirement, but had returned to the city fringes as she felt that she ‘didn’t fit in’.

“I wish I had actually looked at the number of single people in the area,” she said.

By looking at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, you can get an idea about people. You can find out more about their ages, marital status, education and even how much voluntary work is done in the area.

You might prefer to move to an area with a high concentration of over-60s. With others might find living in an area with people their own age group is attractive. You might be someone who wants to retire to an area with a more diverse age group.

With access to the ABS Census data of 2016, I looked at locations in four Australian states to get an insight into age demographics. Merimbula in New South Wales has a median age of 55 years, with 33.1 per cent of people aged 65 and older. While Western Australia’s Margaret River area has a median age of 35, with only 10 per cent of the population aged 65 years-plus. Ocean Grove, on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, has a median age of 42 years and 19.3 per cent of the population is aged 65 years and over, and at Bribie Island in Queensland the median age is 59 years with 40.5 per cent of the population aged 65 and over.

Find activities to suit your retirement goals

Another of the things I considered was the activities on offer. Recreation and cultural facilities are important, but if I retired to an area, what could I do if you wanted to run a profitable hobby, a home-based business, volunteer or find part-time work? I assistance available? Does the council have a business enterprise section? Are there community courses where I could learn a new skill or take on the role of a tutor? Are there many and different opportunities to volunteer?

I’ve spoken to ‘retirees’ who have said, “We don’t know how we found time to work”. That was the case for the enterprising Carol Jones, who lived on a rural property in Mudgee, NSW. She and her husband had ‘retired’ there from Sydney.

Being frustrated at the quality of ironing board covers, they developed a unique design. Fast forward a few years and Carol is known as the ‘Ironing Diva’ and has sold more than 400,000 ironing board covers around the world. Her product range has increased with ‘log luggers’, laundry bags, aprons, shoe bags, shoe sachets and jigsaws.

She knows her customers and has a meticulous approach to service.

Maintaining networks, making new acquaintances and friends is also vital when moving to another place.

Another ‘retiree’ I’ve met, Rob, had worked all his life in computing before moving in retirement to country Victoria. He told a friend about his interest in part-time work, but was adamant it was to have nothing to do with computing. A few weeks later, he was contacted by his friend to say another friend needed a helper to install irrigation systems in domestic gardens.

“The work really increased and I had to say I would only work part-time,” Rob said.

For others voluntary work is a part of their retirement. Many people enjoy helping out in their new community. It’s a great way of meeting new people. The local council in the area where you retire might have a list of volunteering opportunities that could be beneficial.

For others retiring to a location that has access to learning opportunities is essential. This can be via the internet, which is exactly what Lorna Prendergast (who lives in East Gippsland, Victora) did. At 90 years of age, Lorna graduated from Melbourne University with a Master of Ageing.

“I come from a persistent family,” she said.

Not everyone wants to go to a formal education setting. Having a University of the 3rd Age, Probus or neighbourhood centres with classes are also attractive to many retirees moving to an area.

Deciding where and how you want to live in retirement can have quite an effect. Sea change, tree change, downsizing, moving in with family or staying put, the important thing to consider is where you fit in the mix.

What’s important on your retirement location checklist?

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