Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Jen White reveals the appeal of an early move into a ‘lifestyle village’.
A couple of years ago we decided to downsize from the four-bedroom, two-storey house that we had loved for almost 15 years.
Number one (and only) son had left home, the home was starting to show its age and so were we – we’d already outsourced mowing the steep, terraced block to save our backs and knees.
Unfortunately, just as we started looking for our new home, property prices soared and the only homes on the market that came close to our budget were aging, tiny places needing another mortgage to bring them up to standard.
By sheer fluke, I found a place that ticked all of our boxes – and it was so new it was still being built.
Initially, I was hesitant to tell people that we had bought in a “lifestyle village” operated by a retirement organisation. As much as my husband would love to retire, the financial planner says we still have to work for a few more years.
When we inspected the village, the lovely sales lady pointed out that we did have to be over 55 to buy here. We are, but she’s my new best friend.
Now, more than a year down the track, we consider it the best move we’ve ever made.
I’m pretty sure we’re the babies of the village by an average of about 20 years and probably among the handful of full-time workers.
Our neighbours are beautiful people who look out for each other and us. I had a call from one at night a few weeks ago and was immediately worried that something was wrong. Nope, she just wanted to let me know our cat was pacing at our front door and wanted to be let in (I hope she doesn’t mind that the same cat drinks out of her water fountain).
I feel safer living here than anywhere else we’ve lived. And quiet – it’s almost as quiet as the nearby cemetery, apart from the nights when we younguns crank up the music and sing along with AC/DC or Neil Diamond. Now that’s showing our age.
The couple of times I’ve been able to make it to resident gatherings, the first question I’m asked is not my name, but if I live here – they think I’m visiting my parents. They’re new best friends too.
Unfortunately, we’re not able to get to many get-togethers because they’re on during the day when we’re at work. Regular resident association meetings – working. Christmas party – working. Bus trips, golf day, exercise class – working. You get the idea.
We would love to meet more residents, and we will eventually, just like we will be able to join those daytime events when we retire, but for now we enjoy our home and the company of our immediate neighbours, and we wave at everyone else when we drive past.
Like any small community, we have leaders and followers; the joiners and those who are content to sit on the sidelines and watch; the champions; and dare I say it, the whingers.
We’ve got garden gurus and those who are wannabe gurus and, of course, we have the bin police – heaven forbid a can should find its way into the wrong bin. Although they have to be happy with the substantial profit increase from the return and earn bin since we moved in.
Those early worries I had about how people viewed our decision to move here have gone. We bought a new three-bedroom home for far less than the price of a 30-year-old ‘fixer-upper’ and I think some friends are secretly jealous of our set-up.
The other half didn’t have to think twice about buying here once he found out he wouldn’t have to change a light bulb ever again – or mow, clean out the gutters, or even hose the driveway, because it’s all done for us. Top of his Christmas duties list last year was to gurney the deck before the family lunch – he came home the week before to find it had all been done, cobwebs and all.
Our home is designed to suit us as we age, so it includes features like sensor lights in the bathrooms, kitchen and lounge areas, as well as the garage. Sensor lights that you can’t turn off – ever. Try telling the cat it can’t use the kitty litter tray at night because the house lights up like a Christmas tree.
Our ensuite is bigger than any bathroom in any house we’ve owned – we joke that we could have a party in there. But it’s designed that way to allow wheelchair access. We had the option to install handrails and a seat in the shower but decided against it (for now).
We have an emergency alert system installed, like every other home in the village. Press the button and the ambulance is automatically called. Regardless of our age, that’s a pretty handy added extra.
We are comfortable now that our future is looked after. We’re “in the system” so as we age and our needs change, so too can our living needs.
Number one son will never have to worry about what to do with mum and dad when they can no longer live independently.
He loves the idea that we have a nursing home on one side and a cemetery on the other – he reckons just throw in a wheelbarrow and all bases are covered.