Village News

I'll die in my own home!

30 May 2024

The Orchards resident Colleen Woodham

First published in the NZ Herald.

This is the first in a series of sponsored stories by ZB’s Kerre Woodham in which Kerre examines life in Metlifecare villages through the eyes of residents – how they came to be there, what shaped their choice of village and their life in residence. Today: Kerre’s mum Colleen discusses how her ardent opposition turned into happy acceptance.

So why did Kerre Woodham’s mum Colleen change her mind?

Colleen Woodham knows her own mind. She’s a fit, independent octogenarian and I’m proud to call her my mum. A widow for more than twenty five years, she lived in Hamilton in her own home and was adamant it would be her home until she died.

She loved the street she lived in, surrounded by wonderful, supportive friends and was a member of the Hamilton Golf Club just down the road. Yet here she is, about to celebrate her one year anniversary of moving into The Orchards; a Metlifecare retirement village on Auckland’s North Shore.

What prompted such a complete turnaround? “Well”, says Colleen, “three friends died and two went to retirement villages. Our street and my living conditions had changed. Having played golf for 63 years, at 85 I decided I would give it up and grudgingly started to look at retirement villages, perhaps in Auckland, where my family were living.

“My friends, at least six of them golfers, all seemed very happy in their villages so I bit the bullet, rang Kerre and Tony and told them my new plan.’

My brother and I were surprised but pleased. Her little house was going to need quite a bit of maintenance over the next few years and we both had to travel if we wanted to see mum. Having her close by in a shiny, new maintenance-free home would ease a lot of the concern we felt about Mum living by herself in her old home.

Finding the right village was surprisingly easy – after a false start! I had made appointments for mum at a number of villages on the North Shore but the first one didn’t suit. The apartments were too small and looked out onto other apartments. When we visited the second village, mum wouldn’t even get out of the car. It was far too big and overwhelming. But the third village – The Orchards – mum felt was just right.

“The first thing I noticed was that it wasn’t huge and it didn’t look institutional. We were met by Suzee, a lovely salesperson, who discussed the set up and showed us round. The people we met were so friendly and welcoming, which was a good sign.

“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.”

Once her house had sold and she had moved in, mum decided the quickest way to get to know people was to sign up for just about every class and session on offer.

‘After trying indoor bowls, yoga and Never Too Old exercise classes, I settled for those. I also had the chance to go to Indoor Petanque, Line Dancing and a knitting group, so there was certainly a great choice.

“There are many outings you can go on and although my friends and I had always said ‘Fancy driving round in those vans covered in advertising with pictures and words!’, I am very happy for someone else to be driving, given I no longer have my licence.”

Mum also made the most of Happy Hour and her decision to get out and about has paid off. She has a group of new friends and company whenever she wants it.

“Most people I’ve met here are very interesting and have been like me – never going to come to a . But they too have had changed circumstances and so here we all are.

“The staff are great and every so often surprises us. The day I arrived, there was a beautiful flower bouquet on the table and a goody bag. On Mother’s Day, we had chocs delivered and, even on Father’s Day, there was a large bar of choccy in our mail lockers.

“My husband, Mike, died 26 years ago. I had lost my best friends and the children weren’t living close. I found I had got quite lonely recently and the lovely thing about living this way is that you always have company if you want it.’

Mum also appreciates the security that comes with retirement village living – both financial and personal. She knows exactly how much she’ll be paying for all services and amenities every month. There are no added extras or nasty surprises and she loves knowing she won’t have to move again.

“After all my criticism of these types of places, places I was never going to live in, after my first year, I feel I have made the right decision. For added security, we have a care place here which a number of other places did not (though I hope I never have to try it out!)

“From what I have seen of other places, I am so happy I chose The Orchards. I would recommend anyone having to make a decision like mine to come and visit them and get a feel for the places. I’m sure you would find it a good idea to check out Metlifecare first and see what you think."

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