We wanted to find out what life was like for the more than 180,000 Australians who live in a retirement community, so Starts at 60 spoke to current residents around the country to get their personal experiences of community life.
Trish Hehir, 67, and her husband Robert moved from their family home in Adelaide to a nearby retirement village when Robert’s declining health meant they needed more support. Trish says the support from her village community was invaluable when Robert passed away just six months after their move.
“Robert had a chronic lung disease and he was on oxygen 24/7 so it was really hard to get him out of our villa at the village. If we went out we had to take oxygen cylinders and his wheelchair, which was hard as he wasn’t very fit, so we didn’t go out a lot.
“But the people next door and across the road were all really welcoming and aware that we were having a fairly difficult time. And when Robert passed away six months after we moved in, I felt very supported – a lot of people from the village came to his funeral, and I really felt that they were there for me.
“There’s quite a lot of people who have come here just after they have lost their partner, divorced or whatever, because I think it creates a new life – you close some doors and open another.
“Losing Robert, it’s like the end of the world, so I didn’t do a lot. But [when I started going out again], the village leisure centre provided a whole new social life. If you’re home and feel a bit bored or a bit lonely, you can always wander over to the leisure centre and there’s always someone to chat to or have a coffee with.
“We have a happy hour every Friday afternoon, where a lot of people gather and have coffee or drinks. It provides an opportunity to meet people who don’t live close by, and I’ve have met a lot of people and made friends.
“There’s a little group of about 12 people who all live close by me, and once a month we go out together and have lunch. We all look out for each other, and try to invite people who might be lonely, and make sure they can get there.
“The village has a family feel, everybody looks out for everyone else. I had to go to an eye specialist one day, and people from the other side of the village said ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be driving’, and drove me down there, which was just as well, because once I’d had eye drops put in, I couldn’t really focus. It’s just little things like that, where you don’t want to always ask your family for help – it’s like you’ve got an extended family around here.
“There’s no way I’d go out at night outside of the village – to come out of the movies at 9:30pm at night and walk to your car, I just think ‘no, I don’t feel safe in that situation’. But the leisure centre provides an opportunity to do these things at night here. We have monthly community dinners and Saturday night dance parties, where people can bring their own snacks and drinks and enjoy the DJ.
“Robert said to me that ‘I know you’ll be safe here’, and that was a big blessing because you’re surrounded by people, everyone keeps an eye out.
“Yet it’s not a free-for-all, no one comes and bothers you. If you want to be at home, it’s your haven, you’ve got your privacy and we don’t live in each other’s pockets, but the choice is there if you want to go and socialise.”
Have you experienced life in a retirement village? What were your thoughts on the lifestyle?
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Moving into a retirement village is an exciting time, bringing new freedoms, new friends and new possibilities. The Retirement Living Council, a division of the Property Council of Australia represents a large number of retirement community owners, operators and developers and is committed to helping retirees make the move.