What people say after entering a retirement village

What do you picture when you think of a retirement village? If you envision a place where life moves slowly and the energy is low, it’s time to think again.

What people say after entering a retirement village

Not only does retirement living offer a vibrant and rewarding lifestyle, but it comes with intrinsic health benefits that boost mood, energy and participation in activities. Today’s retirement villages are hives of activity where residents stay social and take part in meaningful leisure activities.

Here, we sort fact from fiction when it comes to retirement village living, and address some of the concerns we most commonly hear from residents – before they move in!

Concern #1: “Being surrounded by people my age will encourage me to slow down and lose independence”

On the contrary, we find that residents revel in being part of a new social circle and making new connections, and continue to lead full and rich lives. As resident Ros Oakes explains, “If you hang around people who are really good at being retired, you get really good at being retired.”

She and her husband John moved into Wood Glen Retirement Village on the Central Coast in May 2019. At 67 and 69 respectively, they’re the second youngest residents in the village, but life hasn’t slowed down since they sold their bed and breakfast in Port Macquarie.

Now, they live close enough to Sydney to connect regularly with family, and both volunteer and work in the local community. They also keep busy with sport, with Ros cycling, doing pilates, and going to an outside gym, while John makes use of Wood Glen’s proximity to golf, tennis, and surfing.

“We’re only a 10-15 pushbike ride from Terrigal,” says Ros. “Wood Glen has got absolutely everything. We love it.”

Closer to home, they’ve joined the village’s weekly line dancing classes, and John also plays table tennis and teaches Kelly pool. As Ros points out, “If you’re making a choice to make a change, you might as well make it as rich as you possibly can. That’s what I’m doing.”

Concern #2: “My health and wellbeing will suffer”

Not true! In fact, multiple research studies have shown that your health can actually improve in a retirement village, by reducing isolation and improving mental wellbeing.

Social isolation is a big problem for older Australians, with one in five estimated to suffer from the condition. This can negatively impact one’s mental health and even lead to depression.

Retirement living is specifically designed to counter social isolation, and instead foster a sense of belonging and community. Indeed, research published in The McCrindle Baynes Villages Census Report 2013 showed that 46% of residents reported improved mental health since entering a retirement village.

That’s true for Tarragal Glen resident Gordon Crawford, who says, “Some people look at retirement village living and downsizing as though you’re giving up something, but for us we really feel like it’s given us a better life than we had before. After two years in the village we have a new circle of friends and a very full life both inside and outside of the village.”

It’s a similar story for Carlyle Gardens residents Noel and Judy Bowman. When asked about his favourite memory from living in the village, Noel doesn’t hesitate. “Friendships, in a word,” he says. “This is one of the best moves we’ve ever made.”

As for Judy, she says “all the entertainment has been absolutely first class. It’s the balance. I am happier here and couldn’t recommend it more.”

There are countless ways in which retirement living is good for your health – if you’d like to know more, we’ve come up with the top seven ways in which your wellbeing could flourish.

Concern #3: “I’ll be encouraged to cut ties with the broader community”
When asked to describe their village community, the word we most often hear from residents is “family”. As Anne Stewart at Boambee Gardens describes it, “[the community] is like a family, it’s fabulous. You feel part of a family not only with residents but with the staff.”

But while there’s lots to keep you busy within the village itself, residents also have active and full lives in the broader community, with many volunteering or working part-time. Take our Wood Glen residents, John and Ros. John volunteers at Integrity Living as a bus attendant, while Ros does face-to-face counselling at Lifeline one day a week as well as volunteer administration work at a police office.

Meanwhile, Neville Dunton at Cleveland Manor volunteers as a lollipop man at the local school, is President of the Residents’ Committee and mans the bar at twice-weekly village happy hours.

But no matter how fulfilling and rewarding life is in the broader community, it’s always nice to have a place to call home. As Cleveland Manor resident Nick Caris puts it, “There’s a feeling of belonging. You can’t put a price on it.”

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