I always thought retirement communities were for old people, but after taking a tour of the fabulous retirement community property at The Grace Albert Park, I had to seriously re-evaluate my impressions of what a retirement community could be.
The Grace is an over-55s retirement community designed to suit the outgoing person who enjoys relaxed, jovial interactions with others. It would be ideal for a single person, as there are so many opportunities for them to socialise, but it would also suit those wishing to downsize and not have the worry of home maintenance and security issues.
Overlooking idyllic Albert Park Lake, with its many sporting facilities and surrounding parklands, The Grace really is so much more than a run-of-the-mill retirement community. The Botanic Gardens are close by, as well as Fawkner Park, providing a range of picnic venues and walking paths to enjoy. It’s a stone’s throw from the vibrant South Melbourne restaurant and café scene and its famous South Melbourne Market, and only a short walk to the St Kilda Road tram to access the heart of Melbourne city and all it has to offer.
A great deal of care has been taken with the community’s design to avoid the bland, monolithic look that has become so common with high-rise towers. Once inside, what greeted me was an elegant-yet-minimalist lobby with high ceilings, a striking central light installation and marble surfaces. A concierge is also on duty here seven days a week, ready to attend to a variety of residents’ needs.
Completed in 2019, the building comprises 79 residences of luxury one, two and three-bedroom apartments, including a 332 square meter luxury penthouse with balcony and its own private access to the rooftop. There’s also an amazing number of shared spaces. Here, the emphasis is on lifestyle and community, and much thought has gone into providing residents with outlets and opportunities to meet and mingle. (So much, in fact, that it seemed more like a stationary cruise ship than an apartment block!)
I viewed a couple of the three-bedroom apartments, followed by some two- and one-bedders. A neutral colour palette has been used throughout, with natural materials such as marble benchtops and splashbacks, stone tiling, timber flooring and panelling, wool carpets, and linen curtains. Floor-to-ceiling windows maximise light and views, giving an illusion of greater interior space; double glazing keeps out any noise; and a combination of sheer curtains and remote-controlled blinds offer added privacy.
The kitchens are stunning, with top-of-the-range Miele appliances and Fisher & Paykel integrated fridges and dishwashers. In some of the larger apartments, there’s even a butler’s pantry and wine fridge! In fact, there is plenty of storage, even in the smaller apartments – something downsizers will really appreciate. In general, all apartments appear to have larger floor plans than most on the market. And each apartment has its own individual heating and cooling controls to ensure comfort.
Each residence comes with a car space in the secure underground parking and storage cage, with direct lift access to their apartment floor.
For those who love to garden, the complex offers indoor garden areas – most unusual for a high rise – and residents are welcome to take a selection of herbs or small vegetables, such as tomatoes or chillies, for their own consumption.
The rooftop terrace has generous amounts of seating and a common barbecue area, tv as well as another garden environment with sensational views over Albert Park Lake and parkland, Port Phillip Bay and the Melbourne skyline. The rooftop also features a kitchen for either residents or caterers to use, and clever glass screening prevents wind from spoiling the experience.
The piano lounge is another popular venue, where a couple of residents give informal recitals several times a week, as is the large, shared dining room/lounge/bar, with a coffee machine and papers delivered daily. Residents can share meals together from food prepared in their own apartments or in the large caterer’s kitchen. A private dining room seating 12 is also available for bookings.
Other shared spaces include an artists’ studio for painting, crafts, sewing and other creative pursuits; an activity room for exercise classes; an explorers’ den with resources for those who like to plan or discuss their travels; a games room with a variety of games; a philosopher’s den for those who enjoy spirited conversation; and a library for those who like a quiet space, with plenty of books to choose from.
And just when you thought the community couldn’t fit in any more shared spaces, there’s also a recreational room on basement two, with table tennis, foosball and video/arcade gaming. This space would be great for when the grandchildren visit!
Having a concierge available seven days a week and a general manager on-site during business hours enables residents to access assistance in arranging social needs such as restaurant bookings or theatre tickets, everyday needs such as laundry or shopping, as well as wellbeing support. Guest speakers, cooking classes and personalised exercise classes such as water aerobics are offered regularly, and there’s a book club, bike group and a walking group. Several residents also make regular use of the Albert Park Golf Course nearby.
Some activities are organised by Australian Unity, since The Grace is one of their retirement communities, while others come from the residents’ committee. Informal outings to the Rising Sun pub around the corner and a train trip to Bendigo are planned for the near future. The Residents’ Lounge is the venue for twice weekly happy hours and occasional bring-a-plate nights.
A visit to the activity room where a Zoom yoga class was underway gave me a chance to join in. Although Covid-19 restrictions mandated that the Zoom format was necessary, it also meant that participants could log into the class from the privacy of their own apartments, which was handy. Yoga is offered twice a week, tailored to the skill level of participants. Weight sessions are also available, and these are provided by Australian Unity as part of their wellbeing program.
Mah Jong was the next event I experienced. Luckily there was already a group formed, as my playing days were a distant memory. Amid the twittering of sparrows and the clatter of tiles being placed, the ladies chatted amiably and shared with me their considerable satisfaction with their new lifestyle.
This activity was soon followed by happy hour in the residents’ lounge. At the time of my visit, The Grace was not fully occupied and many of the residents – who are an active lot – were still out and about. Nevertheless, a dozen or so ladies made me feel most welcome.
Another advantage for the residents of The Grace is being able to bring their pet with them. I was surprised and curious as to how this was organised – but there have been no issues with soiling or noise and being so close to parks for exercise definitely helps.
Since The Grace is an Australian Unity project, the wellbeing of residents is a high priority. The Grace provides consulting rooms for visiting allied health professionals, while a Wellbeing Consultant is on site two days per week to assist residents with a personalised wellbeing plan, if desired. Each apartment has a 24-hour emergency call facility, allowing either an off-site care team or registered nurse to be accessed when needed.
The former Australian Unity building next door is in the process of being converted into assisted living apartments and an aged care home, with the aim of providing specialised accommodation not only for the wider community but as a ‘next step’ for residents of The Grace whose needs change. This is in addition to their ‘ageing in place’ wellbeing care – for those who do not need to move.
The aim at The Grace is to create an environment that fosters strong connections with like-minded residents. Those I spoke with found that this interaction had a positive impact on their wellbeing, creating a strong sense of belonging from the moment they arrived. Potential residents should note though that while it is a very social environment, there is every opportunity to simply relax in quiet solitude and socialise according to your individual preferences.
As you take in the view around Albert Park Lake, you may catch your breath. The Grace is perfectly placed for you to live a connected inner-city lifestyle. World-class retirement apartments are now selling. Come and see them for yourself.