Village News

The relief of the reluctant resident

14 June 2024

Resident Alan from Greenwich Gardens

First published in the NZ Herald

This is the sixth in a series of sponsored stories by ZB’s Kerre Woodham in which Kerre examines life in Metlifecare retirement villages through the eyes of residents – how they came to be there, what shaped their choice of village and their life in residence. Today: Alan Dunn’s near-disaster.

The retirement village resident who hated it - and then loved it.

Alan Dunn is a nomad by nature. In a rich life, full of adventures, he has travelled the world through his work and with his participation in pipe bands – so it wasn’t easy to put down roots at Metlifecare Greenwich Gardens retirement village.

He’s lived in the UK, America, Europe and New Zealand, so you could say he was more familiar with Greenwich Mean Time than Greenwich Gardens – but knew deep down it was time for a change.

“I actually had a heart attack”, says Alan, “and my family said, ‘we really need you closer to us’. My son had a look around here and said this was the place for me. So I came up and moved into the village – and I hated it.

“I hated it with a vengeance. I was only here for a few weeks and I’d arranged to leave. I thought a retirement village is no place for a free agent. So I told my son and daughter I was going to leave and they sat me down and said if I was going to leave, they’d support me but they wanted me to go through the fors and againsts first.

“They said it would be better for them if I stayed here, but they knew I had to do what I wanted to do – and so we did the fors and againsts and there were a few more fors than againsts.”

However, even though Alan had agreed with his family that it made sense to stay, he still wasn’t 100 per cent convinced…until he was invited along to the Greenwich Gardens monthly Blokes’ Lunch.

“They started the Blokes’ Lunch because it’s mostly single women here and they wanted something for single men and the husbands because…well, you know.

“It was good to talk to these guys and see that they had felt a little bit the same way I did. Even some of the men in couples weren’t quite sure when they first moved in.

“Then they invited me to come along to play pool – and although pool’s not really my thing, I went and met some more people and I said I was into drumming. One of the guys said: ‘I’m in the band here [Terry and the Pacemakers] and we need a drummer. Come along and join the band!’

“That was it. The rest is history.” So, after initially being a reluctant resident, Alan has thrown himself into village living.

“I’ve tried everything here. I go to the workshop, I go swimming a lot, I go to the gym. We’ve got a little group here, about 6-8 of us at any given time; we go off and do different things outside of the village. Like tonight – we’re all going out for dinner.”

It’s just a bit of fun and a great way to spend time with new friends: “There are so many people here who have interesting jobs and done amazing things,” he says. “It’s incredible what some people here have done.”

Although he makes good use of the facilities and activities at Greenwich Gardens, the band is Alan’s major love. They’ve played at Greenwich Gardens, of course, and at a couple of other Metlifecare villages, with invitations to play at a few more – though the lack of a van and a strapping roadie prevents the band from touring more often.

Alan hasn’t entirely given up travelling, either. He and a friend often head up to Russell and he also enjoys going back down to Motueka to catch up with his old friends, so the security of village living and the ability to lock up and leave his apartment is also a bonus.

It’s extraordinary to think he came so close to turning his back on village living and buying an apartment in a tower block. Alan shakes his head when he thinks about what could have been.

“Oh, I’m so glad I didn’t leave! Living on my own, not knowing anybody, in an apartment – it would have been horrendous....”

What an absolute waste if this gregarious, warm, intelligent man, with all he has to offer, had nobody to give it to! It’s a 180-degree turn around to see that this retirement village runaway has now become a poster boy for village living.

“Being in here, it’s brilliant,” Alan smiles. “You’ve just got to make the most of it. Look at the place, look at the people – brilliant. I never thought I’d say it, but I love it here. It’s just like being on holiday with your mates.”

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