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.
Toni Boulton, 74, and her husband Barry, 80, found a retirement community that perfectly suited their needs just as they were planning to downsize from their family home of 52 years. Toni was initially sceptical about the benefits of retirement living, but two years after they made the move, she says retirement living has exceeded her expectations.
“We’d just started looking at apartments in this area. I had misgivings about buying one because when you move into an apartment building you never know who your neighbours are going to be – a lot of people, they wouldn’t care about you or anything like that.
“My husband saw the sign for this village where they were building new apartments. When he looked at them he thought, ‘This is ticking all the boxes’. There are a lot of people a lot younger than us living here, many are still working. I think that’s part of the appeal of the village. It’s got such a great atmosphere and the apartments are lovely, new and spacious.
The village has also got a very good support network and everything you need. Although we really haven’t used a lot of the support at this stage, you never know about your future. We thought, if we move here, we’re not going to have to move again. So, we bought a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, with a study, on the ground floor of a four-level building, with a lovely garden.
“We had plenty of friends outside the village, but we’ve made some wonderful friends here too. We’ve got like-minded people living around us, whereas if we’d just gone to an apartment building in another suburb or even this suburb, there wouldn’t been people who’re interested in you and have the time to stop and chat.
“We’ve got people from lots of different backgrounds living here and it’s interesting to hear other people’s stories – the social interaction is good for the brain!
“There’s a bar in our clubhouse and between 4pm and 6pm on a Saturday and Sunday the residents man the bar on a roster system. I’ve never done bar work before but I have now!
“We have a wonderful chef onsite in the café who cooks us beautiful meals so we all go along once a week for a BYO dinner and everyone has a good time.
“We also have a dinner once a fortnight and it’s all relatively low prices. Of course, if you don’t feel you can afford it, you don’t have to go, but it’s $30 a head for a three-course meal and the drinks at the bar are $3 for beer or wine.
“The village managers ask everyone to treat the clubhouse like an extension of your lounge room so it’s not just for residents, we can bring the family there too. My 13-year-old granddaughter loves coming here to use the pool – she’s not old enough to use the gym yet! She’s been here when we’ve had sausage sizzles that I help run and she’ll go around and serve the residents, she loves mixing with them all.
“And it’s pet-friendly, so there’s a few people with cats and a few with small dogs. When they recently built a new building, they put in a pet fountain so the dogs can have a drink when they’re out for a walk.
“When we tell people we live at a retirement village, they say, ‘Oh, you’re not old enough to do that yet’ or ‘I’m not ready for that yet’, but they should do it while they’re still quite active. My daughter even said to me, ‘Mum, you’re the one who didn’t want to move and now you’re the one that who loves it’.
“Here, everything’s laid on, you just cross the road or go up in the lift. There’s craft groups, a group that plays bridge, a film appreciation group, a creative writing group, a drawing group. You name it, this place has everything covered.
“Barry goes to the gym here, and I’m part of the gardening group so we’ve got vegetable and herb gardens that we tend, plant new things, harvest the crops and so forth. We’ve got tomatoes, silverbeet, the sort of things people like to cook with, and all the herbs – rosemary, basil, thyme and oregano – anyone is welcome to come and help themselves.
“It’s not that easy usually to make new friends, but it’s been very easy here, I can assure you. We go to one another’s places for dinner and barbecues.
“Friends from outside the village come over for meals. One couple we’re friends with came here and when they saw where we were living, they said, ‘Hmm, maybe in the future we’ll move in there, this would be somewhere we could live’.
“Well, they’re moving in here at the end of next month!”
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.