In Lifestyle on Friday 10th Sep, 2021

Through thick and thin: One retirement village is helping couples stay close

Sep 10, 2021
At Ryman Healthcare’s retirement villages, there’s an understanding community on hand and a strong culture of support. Image source: Ryman Healthcare

Downsizing can be difficult enough, so once you’ve completed that process, you don’t want to have to then worry about being transferred far away from your partner if one of you declines health wise and needs to be moved to a higher level of care. Fortunately, there’s a retirement village operator that’s offering seniors peace of mind in this all-too-common situation.

Full care offering

Ryman Healthcare’s retirement villages across Victoria provide a full care offering, including low care, high care, specialist dementia care, respite care and aged care at each location, to cater to each individual’s needs. This means that if one of you needs to move into, say, aged care, at some point, it can be as easy as relocating to the next floor of your apartment building.

Supportive culture

Having a full care offering on site means many residents at Ryman’s retirement villages are experiencing varying healthcare situations, so there’s also an empathetic, understanding community on hand and a strong culture of support. If someone’s been unwell, or had a bereavement, fellow residents rally around them. “I do think there is care and concern because we’re in here for all sorts of reasons and I think that people do want everybody to enjoy the place and see it as home,” says Kath, who lives at the Weary Dunlop retirement village at Wheelers Hill.

Kath and husband Jim met Graham and Helen soon after moving into the village and became fast friends. When Helen’s health sadly deteriorated and she had to be moved into the village’s specialist dementia care unit, it was one of the toughest times in Graham’s life. During this period, Kath and Jim were a constant pillar of support for Graham, catching up with him for a quiet drink in the village lounge every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evening, after Graham had visited Helen.

Graham says he doesn’t know how he would have coped with supporting Helen during her dementia and then her passing earlier this year, if he hadn’t had Jim and Kath to lean on. “I think I would have struggled,” he says. “Going through that period of [Helen’s illness] you definitely need someone to back you up. It meant a hell of a lot because they were very supportive… Jim and Kath were there in spades.”

The fact Ryman Healthcare’s villages provide a full care offering on site was also a big drawcard for Kath and Jim, but for slightly different reasons. “We didn’t want our daughters’ lives disrupted by having to look after us,” Jim explains. “I’ve seen it happen where someone has had to look after an elderly parent for 10 years, 15 years and I thought ‘no way’. We’ll be self-sufficient and they won’t have to worry about it. We’ve got carers here if we need them. That, to me, was a huge thing.”

“I just feel so much more social here,” village resident Kath says. Image source: Ryman Healthcare

IMAGE CAPTION: “I just feel so much more social here,” village resident Kath says. Image source: Ryman Healthcare

But Jim and Kath weren’t just looking for a home with a full care offering, they were also looking for a community. Before moving to Ryman’s retirement village, they said they didn’t really talk to their neighbours and would have days at home where they didn’t talk to anybody. “I just feel so much more social here [at the village],” Kath explains. “You walk out in the hallway and it’s ‘Hi Kath’, and you have a bit of a chat.”

And, since moving, she says that life certainly hasn’t slowed down. “On the contrary, you sort of think, ‘where did the day go?’ Jim and I walk a lot, we’re both readers, we swim, we play table tennis, we like our music, we garden two mornings a week, and we go down and have a drink every so often at the lounge,” she says.

Lifestyle and well-being

One of the great things about Ryman’s villages is that they offer plenty of lifestyle and wellbeing facilities, including a swimming pool, bowling green and gym. There’s even a  Ryman Triple A (Ageless, Active, Aware) complimentary exercise program, which encourages residents to keep moving.

Catering for all ability levels, the Triple A program aims to improve participants’ strength, balance and mobility. This also helps prevent falls and maintain independence. There are classes such as functional fitness and circuits, and a ‘sit and be fit’ class. The level of participation is up to you, but residents typically get involved at least twice a week, with many noticing significant gains in their overall wellbeing. It’s also a good opportunity to have a laugh and get to know other residents.

In addition to Ryman Triple A, there’s Ryman Engage, a complimentary activities program, which includes going on group bus trips, visiting exhibitions, joining one of the many interest groups, or simply sharing some baking at morning tea. A resident favourite is the complimentary Happy Hours at the lounge. Regular entertainers perform for residents – and their relatives who come along. The key is to provide something for everyone.

Independent living and serviced apartments

Ryman’s apartments and villas have everything you need. From the clean, modern lines and clever design layout, to the tranquil village surrounds that make you feel like you’re on holiday with your own furniture – they’re the kind of homes you quickly fall in love with.

The serviced apartments come with support that makes life easier, including general housekeeping, garden maintenance and a chef-prepared meal every day. It’s great for you and reassuring for your family, because they know you’re being looked after.

One of Ryman Healthcare apartment at Weary Dunlop. Image source: Ryman Healthcare

A little history

Ryman Healthcare was co-founded by a policeman named Kevin Hickman. In 1983, Kevin walked into an old fire-damaged villa to investigate how the fire had started. The building was a rest home, and Kevin didn’t like what he saw. “There were four people to a room, with shared toilets down the corridor. The people running the rest home were nice and did … as much as they were expected to. But, to me, it was crazy. The standards were so poor. But that’s how rest homes were in those days.”

It started Kevin thinking about what the standard should be. “I thought, what would I want for Mum? I’d want a single room with an ensuite, for a start.” It was the business opportunity Kevin and his business partner, accountant John Ryder, had been looking for – a business they could feel good about and believe in.

They soon found a block of two-bedroom flats in Christchurch, New Zealand, which they converted into their first rest home in 1996. In 2014, they opened their first Australian location – Weary Dunlop Retirement Village – at Wheelers Hill in Victoria. Nearly four decades on, Kevin says Ryman’s ethos hasn’t changed: “Everything we do must be good enough for mum – or dad.”

Locations around Victoria:

There’s now 12 locations around Victoria, including:

  • Weary Dunlop (operational village in Wheelers Hill, Melbourne)
  • Nellie Melba (operational village in Brandon Park, Melbourne)
  • John Flynn (operational village in Burwood East, Melbourne)
  • Charles Brownlow (operational village in Geelong, VIC)
  • Deborah Cheetham (operational village in Ocean Grove, VIC)
  • Aberfeldie, Melbourne (under construction)
  • Ringwood East, Melbourne (under construction)
  • Highett, Melbourne (under construction)
  • Mt Eliza, Melbourne (planning stage)
  • Mt Martha (planning stage)
  • Essendon (planning stage)
  • Mulgrave (planning stage)

User-friendly contracts

Ryman Healthcare prides itself on having very clear, easy-to-understand contracts. What’s more, they have several ‘Peace of Mind Guarantees’. These include the fact the Deferred Management Fee is capped at 20 per cent, there’s a fixed base weekly fee, no hidden costs, no capital loss and a 90-day money-back guarantee, among other guarantees.

Ryman Healthcare facilities offers peace of mind

Ryman Healthcare provides full care offering to cater to each individual’s needs offer by providing full care offering to cater to each individual’s needs which means that if one of you needs to move into an aged care facility at some point, it can be as easy as relocating to the next floor of your apartment building.


Do you and your partner have - or expect to have - differing healthcare needs?

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