Village News

How to meet your next home and family

13 June 2024

Metlifecare residents enjoy retirement living

First published in the NZ Herald

In this series, Metlifecare have provided a “how to” guide for anyone contemplating a move to retirement villages. Today: How to choose the right village, with advice from actual Metlifecare residents about how and why they made their decisions.

is a practical matter – and emotional.

When choosing a new home, aside from practical considerations such as number of bedrooms and proximity to facilities, the main question remains the same: will I be happy here?

This is especially important when older Kiwis are choosing where to make their final move, away from the family home and into a retirement village.

With many established retirement villages and new developments to choose from, aged-care experts recommend taking a pragmatic approach to selecting the best match for your needs and lifestyle — then factoring in your emotional response too.

Angela Easterbrook of Metlifecare, which houses just under 7000 residents in retirement villages and aged-care facilities around New Zealand, says doing the level of research you would on any house-hunting mission is vital when choosing a retirement option.

“Moving to a retirement village is no longer about thinking ‘rest home’ or ‘care home’ — instead, it’s about finding your next home in which to spend your retirement,” she says. “If you’re looking to live independently, care could certainly be a factor, but it’s more about making sure you find your next home to ‘live’ in — with like-minded people, and where you’ll make new friends.”

  • "We’re lucky enough to have a social coordinator who organises all sorts of activities — she’s wonderful. Coming from a big family, moving in and making another big family has just been incredible."

“Finding a village that feels like home means something different to everyone, so spending some time working out what that means for you will go a long way to helping you make the right choice.”

Easterbrook says with many people in their 70s today still being active and social, it’s important to consider the different amenities and activities available at each village. “For example, if you want to be able to swim every day, you might want a place which has a pool, so you don’t have to drive somewhere else to enjoy your swim.”

  • "I’d always said I would never live above ground level, but the apartment I was shown was on a higher floor with lovely views across the treetops. As I love swimming, the beautiful swimming pool with a lovely big spa pool was a winner. The list of activities looked great and, overall, I had a feeling this could work."

Moving into a retirement village has the benefits of reducing the time and money that needs to be spent on home and garden maintenance, an increased sense of security, and having a range of things to do right on your doorstep.

  • "I said, ‘This is it’ — I knew. It’s just all that green that doesn’t have to be mowed — or, rather mown by us! And how many people can say they have a water fountain outside their bedroom window?"

Moving into a retirement complex also doesn’t have to mean signing up for every activity going and being sucked into a relentless whirl.

“Not everybody who moves into a village wants to be involved in everything,” Easterbrook says. “You can be involved in as much or as little as you want. If you want to be quite private and want a more relaxing environment, then you can do that too. How you spend your time is completely up to you.”

For people considering the move, Metlifecare has resources available on its website to guide potential residents through the process of choosing a village, including a handy checklist. Some aspects to consider are:

Non-negotiables: What are the most important things to you — being close to family, cost, social aspects, security, ‘lock up and leave’, inclusion of care when it’s needed? Everyone’s list will be different but can be a powerful tool in decision-making.

Location: Where you want to live — near family, or amenities, or both? In a city or near the beach? Is it important to have access to public transport? Do you want to live in the same area, or try somewhere different?

Lifestyle: How do you want to live — do you want a whole villa or a more compact apartment, at ground level or in an apartment with views? Do you want a village with an abundance of activities, or something a bit more low-key? All villages are different in shape, size, the number of residents, and the types of units and facilities available.

Financials: What’s your budget? As well as the initial cost of buying an , there are ongoing fees which vary from village to village. Do you want to put more money into moving to an upmarket complex, or would you rather live somewhere less expensive and spend that cash on travel or lifestyle instead?

Easterbrook says visiting a variety of villages will give potential residents a feel for what it’s like ‘on the ground’, rather than just on paper. She also encourages family members to get involved in the process, so they can get an idea of the options available.

“While the unit or apartment that you move into is important because that’s where you’re going to be spending a lot of your time, it’s about considering how you feel about the whole environment,” Easterbrook says.

“So when you go for a visit, don’t look just at the unit but the area that it’s in and the amenities, and consider how you felt when you were there. Did you feel like the staff were welcoming and helpful, and did the residents look like they were having a good time? What activities were going on, and what things did they offer that you would like to get involved in?”

  • "We were close to all the amenities, and we knew the area. We could keep the same doctor and we could walk everywhere once we gave up our cars. And the people — the staff are very nice, and the residents are friendly. That’s a big plus."
    Ray and Marilyn

It’s a good idea to start looking at potential villages before ‘thinking about moving’ turns into ‘have to move’, when illness or an injury might necessitate a sudden decision about leaving the family home.

“It’s very important that people start to make the decision and do their research when they are able to make that decision for themselves and have the time to look around and not be under pressure or stressed,” she says. “This can be an emotional process for some people. You need to feel like you’re going to be supported through your journey, not just when you move in, but afterwards as well.”

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