Retirement living makes light work of ageing

Senior Australians are turning towards community living to stave off isolation as a result of COVID-19.
Retirement Living_Side

“Ageing isn’t easy, but you can make it heavy or you can make it lighter. You have to learn how to struggle intelligently,” says 100-year-old author, artist and performer Ilona Royce Smithkin, in her book Ninety-Nine Straight Up, No Chaser (which she wrote at the age of 99). The Massachusetts-based resident may be thousands of miles away from Australia, living her best centenarian life in Provincetown, but her sentiments traverse time and space. It’s no secret the senior struggle has increased in the past year, as many older Australians, who already felt alone, were forced into isolation by COVID-19.

The appeal of connection

For many retirees, turning to retirement living has been a way of lightening the load – increasing their social circle and boosting their sense of community support, at a time when it felt both of these things might be shrinking.

According to The Weekly Source’s Retirement Living Year in Review, traffic on increased 48% between May and June, as Australia came out of its first lockdown. Interest in Retirement Living continues to grow.[1] It’s not surprising of a sector, which while not without its perception challenges, has an extremely appealing offering for over-55s.

No longer simply the reserve of slipper wearers, shuffling from their homes to the dining room and back, Baby Boomers are reinventing what it means to live in a Retirement Village. They’re enjoying life to its fullest, taking advantage of amenities which might include everything from swimming pools, gym and bar complete with happy hour, while making the most of a lifestyle which promotes social interaction and engagement. The echoing refrain of so many retirees who populate villages across Australia? “I wish I’d moved in sooner.”

Safety and security take centre stage

More than 80 per cent of Australian seniors say they feel safer living in a retirement village than in the wider community during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey by Retire Australia. More than 97 per cent of the survey respondents felt “safe and informed’’ and 93 per cent felt “valued and supported”.[2] Anecdotally, lockdown saw residents form little families (since they couldn’t see their own), as they’d catch up for socially distanced strolls around the village, and check in on each other regularly. Meanwhile, retirement villages are rolling out new services and initiatives to help residents feel supported and connected to the broader village community.

At Brookland Retirement Village in Queensland, (about to undergo a $28 million extension delivered by FDC), this includes twice-weekly wellness calls, meal delivery, in-home trivia and activities, and even a community pantry to ensure residents have access to essential supplies. Stage one of the upgrade will see the village replete with new bar, private dining room, swimming pool, gym, café, beauty salon and green open spaces for residents to enjoy.

Ted Wright, a new resident at Brookland Retirement Village, is already celebrating his decision to move in. “I’m so glad that I came in when I did,” he said. “My daughters are very happy that I’m living the life I am. I can isolate, but I’ve still got people around and help if I need it.”[3]

Comfort and community is key

Developers are surging forward with projects that aim to bring innovation, sustainability, and quality to retirement villages and their residents. Greenway Views, a vibrant senior community located in Tuggeranong, ACT, recently won a coveted Urban Developer Award 2020, in the ‘Retirement, Aged Care and Seniors Living’ category. The $108 million project of stage 1, delivered by FDC, includes 210 apartments offering a range of care support for those residents needing care now or in the future, from low through to high delivered into the privacy of resident apartments. The apartments range from studio, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom.

Inspiring artwork adorns the walls, communal areas have been designed to create a vibrant community as well as for comfort and enjoyment. Integrated technology ensures 24-hour onsite support for all residents. That’s not to mention the restaurant dining, landscaped gardens, piano bar with snooker table, café and theatre – just to name a few.

It’s the epitome of lightening the load; moving to a place designed to feel like a perpetual holiday where neighbours become friends and you have a community to rely on in times of change. It’s a simple concept, but a powerful one. Or as Ilona puts it, “A little bit of caring goes a long way.”