Retirement living. Doing it differently.

by Catherine Rickwood

Inspired by a program on housing for the older population that appeared on an SBS Insight program, I contacted two of the participants who had talked about the retirement community they had created with four other long term friends. It’s a remarkable story.

Like many baby boomers, Judy and Michael didn’t want to live in either a retirement village or an aged care facility as they became older. Nor did two other couples they knew and with whom they had shared a friendship for over 30 years. They had enjoyed many holidays together, and with a common aversion to existing living arrangements for people as they age, they thought that they could create their own retirement community by living together for the remainder of their lives.

After a successful trial living in the same home they rented together in Sydney the group searched for land where they could build a home in which three couples could happily live until they all died.

Their beautiful home is set on small acreage about 20 minutes drive from Taree. All couples have their own living area that includes a bedroom, ensuite, office area large enough for two desks and a private balcony.  The common area consists of a kitchen, dining, and lounge area.  The pantry has dedicated individual spaces as well as shared shelves for staples such as oil, salt, and pepper.  The lounge is large and open plan with enough space for wheelchairs or walking frames if/when these are needed by any of the residents. There’s also a large deck with an outdoor table for six, and a BBQ.

It’s cold when I visit so I experience the warmth and friendliness of the indoor fire rather than the outdoor verandah and BBQ.  Separately there’s a yoga studio (my heaven) that includes a separate bedroom, living room, bathroom and small kitchen that could be used by a carer – again if/when this is needed in the future.

I gather the journey to create this alternative retirement home has been long with many challenges and self-discoveries along the road. However, it works. It seems that Judy, Michael, Heather, Rick, Eve and Daniel have discussed everything from pets to caring for each other if various health issues arise, including dementia, to the fact that the house will not be sold until the last person has died.

Their journey, including twelve lessons these innovators discovered when creating an intentional community, is detailed in the Shedders blog written by one of the residents, Heather Bolstler.

Whilst I only met Judy & Michael as Heather, Rick, Eve & Daniel were travelling, I felt privileged to meet and share time with extraordinary people. They have made a choice and created a way of living that will nourish the body, mind, and soul until death they do part. I’m impressed by their forward thinking, openness to a different idea for living the remainder of their life and willingness to take action to create the future they want to have with four other close friends who share the same desire and vision.

Could I do this? Possibly. I like the idea as an alternative to a retirement village – something I’m not attracted to either. It’s certainly innovative and I love how it demonstrates that creative thinking can generate possibilities for living as we age that don’t currently exist.

What do you think? Could you create an intentional community such as this or do you have other plans for retirement living? What do you want? How will you create it? Always curious to hear what you’re planning to do.


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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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