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.
Denise Matthews, 65, moved an hour and a half from her hometown Sydney to the New South Wales central coast, where she found a retirement living community that felt instantly welcoming. She says the ease of a low-maintenance, lock-and-go lifestyle and the knowledge that she was always surrounded by friendly neighbours suits perfectly her desire to travel without worry.
“I had quite a large house in Sydney but I wanted to downsize and was looking for something where I didn’t have to worry about mowing lawns, putting the bin out or anything like that. I did a lot of looking up the New South Wales coast, and I could have afforded lots of different places.
“I chose this place because even though it’s older, it has a really good, family feel. It’s a small village with approximately 60 units, and each time I visited before moving here, the residents were very friendly. They would always ask if they could help, and after living in Sydney, I liked the thought of a community.
“I also like the fact that I just close my front door and I go. I didn’t want to have to worry about maintenance or changing a lightbulb.
“Recently, I’ve been travelling between here and Sydney while I’ve been helping my son with his wedding preparations, and I don’t have to worry about my property. There’s always someone around. I’ve got neighbours either side of me as well as neighbours below because I’m on the second storey, so I don’t have to worry.
“We also have something that’s like an alarm system, if you have a fall or something. There are points throughout the unit that you press, and the system’s staff will contact you, you don’t even have to pick up the phone. It gives my son peace of mind, knowing that while he’s an hour and a quarter away, that if something happens, I just need to press a button, people ring you straight back and if they can’t hear your voice they automatically send an ambulance as well as contact the management of the village.
“When you live on your own – most people here are women – it’s good to know you’ve got that facility.
“The other thing about being in a village too, is that if I have any maintenance issues, I just put in a form and the maintenance men come up and fix it. I don’t have to worry! I recently had to have the washers changed in my shower, because they were leaking. If I was in my own house, I would have had to call a plumber, or an electrician if I wanted to change something up high, so having help with maintenance adds to an easier type of life.
“I think if you’re going to go into a village of any sort, no matter what it looks like on the outside, you need to talk to the residents to get a really good idea of how things operate and get a feel of the place, because they will tell you the good and the bad. They will tell you what they’re happy with and what they’re not happy with, and you can determine for yourself what you want out of a place. It’s all well and good for a village to have all the bells and whistles but if you don’t feel comfortable there, as far as having friendly people around, it just isn’t the same.
“Even if I had a partner, I would more than likely recommend a village atmosphere where you can still come and go.
“We had a really bad hail storm here the other week, one of those ‘one in a hundred years’ freak storms, and I had water damage in my lounge and bedroom, but I didn’t have to worry about fixing things – the maintenance guys took care of it. In Sydney, I would have had a tradie come in and pull up the carpet, another tradie come in and get on the roof – not having to do that just takes some of the worry out of day-to-day living. It counts for a lot.
“You don’t have to worry about anything, you just walk out the door, which is a wonderful feeling.”
Have you experienced life in a retirement village? What were your thoughts on the lifestyle?
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.