I’ve had a reality check. Here it is …

by Catherine Rickwood

I’m getting older. I know that. I’ve said for a long time that I plan to see 100 and beyond. And, I’m determined to age well. Age healthily. Age happily. Age productively. In community with like-minded people. I eschew the idea of a retirement village or nursing home. That’s not for me. I don’t do bingo. Have no interest in bingo. And group excursions or group events? I’ve never been a good groupie which is probably one of the reasons I won’t do cruises. I don’t like the idea of being told when to eat, what to eat or where to eat. However, there’s a ‘but’. Here it is …

My perceptions of retirement villages and nursing homes are built on stereotypes. Stereotypes of what’s provided and what people in ‘those’ places think, feel, and do. However, here’s some realities I’ve had about becoming older:

  1. The longer I live the fewer friends I’ll have, simply because not everyone wants to live to 100 and beyond, and so many friends will simply have passed away.  (Of course I may not live to 100 either, but assuming I do …)
  2. Being with people, socialising and connecting is essential to happiness, health and wellbeing, with loneliness and social isolation known to be a contributing factor to various physical and mental health problems such as dementia and general cognitive decline.
  3. I may need some assistance with simple tasks, including shopping and cooking (even if it’s because I don’t want to cook just for me).
  4. Having people nearby who keep a caring eye out for me could mean I feel more relaxed about living independently if I’m in a retirement village as I talked about in this earlier blog piece.
  5. Living in a retirement village potentially provides independence and freedom that reduces dependence on my own children.

On this last point … I’d love to think that my children would enjoy caring for their dear ‘ol Mum and, (another reality) they may not want to be doing that even if the idea seems a romantic one to me now.

These reality checks were brought home to me by Ashton Applewhite in her book ‘This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism’. I found her chapter on ‘The Independence Trap’ thought-provoking and makes the book worth buying for this chapter alone. Applewhite quotes the founder of the Radical Age Movement Alice Fisher, who writes: “Ageing in place works until it doesn’t.”

Of course retirement villages aren’t the only option, although if they were based on these ten principles developed by geriatrician Dr Bill Thomas, then I’d suggest a retirement village could potentially be more interesting to me in the future.  There’s also the idea of intergenerational homeshare where the needs of both ends of the age spectrum are met, and communities like the Waverton Hub based on the principles of the Village to Village network.  Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS) are also an option. These communities comprise “apartment buildings, housing complexes, or neighbourhoods of single-family homes not originally built for older adults but where large concentrations of elders currently reside” (2).

The options are numerous. For me, the reality check is that I probably won’t be able to do it all on my own. As fiercely independent as I am, if I want to age well, to age healthily I will have to consider my living options to ensure that I remain connected and in community.

How about you? What are your plans? What are your preferred living arrangements when you’re older?



  1. Grenade, L. & Boldy, D. (2008), Social isolation and loneliness among older people: issues and future challenges in community and residential settings, Australian Health Review, August, Vol 32 (3)
  1. Stone, R. (2013), What are the realistic options for aging in community?, Journal of the American Society on Aging, Winter, Vol 37(4)
About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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