Village News

Retirement? What retirement?

23 May 2024

Waitākere Gardens residents Ray and Marilyn

First published in the New Zealand Herald

This is the fifth 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: Why Ray and Marilyn decided to move to a village before it was too late.

Busy having fun and doing good - Ray & Marilyn’s story.

Ray Kwok and his wife Marilyn had been visitors to Metlifecare’s Waitākere Gardens for several years before they decided to make it their home.

However, a retirement village wasn’t their first choice. Ideally, Ray and Marilyn would have moved from their large two-storey home in West Auckland to a single level, low maintenance bungalow but, at the time, those types of homes were hard to find and impossibly expensive.

So, already familiar with Waitākere Gardens, they decided to look at retirement villages.

“We came here all the time to visit my sister, who lived here for 16 years, so we knew it well,” says Ray. “We also looked at several other villages but this was the one that suited us.

“The village is close to all amenities and we knew the area. We could keep the same doctor and 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.”

Through Ray’s sister, they already knew a number of residents and had been out to dinner with some. It was a good head start.

Ray says it’s important to make the move before it’s too late to enjoy all that retirement village living can offer: “If you’re too old and doddery, you can’t enjoy the fun things,” he laughs. “If you come in young enough, you can enjoy everything, it’s easier to settle in – and, if your spouse dies, you’re already here. You don’t have to come in by yourself and make friends alone.”

Ray surprised himself by just how much fun he could have at the village: “I didn’t expect to enjoy the game shows so much, the weekly concerts and dances, Melbourne Cup Days – it’s great.”

Marilyn is a past winner of the Best Hat at the Melbourne Cup Day, an ambition she’s had since moving into the village. “She finally did it last year,” says Ray. He enjoys the social nights so much he now takes his turn behind the mic hosting some of the Happy Hours: “We announce birthdays, tell a few jokes, sell the raffle tickets. It’s good fun.”

Ray says the resident-run Happy Hour is also a great way for newbies to ease themselves into village life, especially the men: “They can mix with us and they can get a feel for the sorts of things we can do in the village. We encourage them to try out some of the activities – especially the sports groups. The men here like competitive sports!”

Waitākere Gardens boasts a number of sports teams including table tennis, a Japanese blow darts team and snooker.

“I play a lot of golf – I belong to the Helensville Golf Club – and there are a lot of golfers here. There’s plenty to do if you want to do it.”

Many residents are involved in community work. The Blokes Shed (aka the Residents Shed) is a sophisticated tool shed and among other things, the talented blokes and the odd ‘blokess’ produce rat motels and rat traps to help conservation efforts in the Waitākere Ranges.

Other residents help children at local schools with reading and, in turn, the schoolchildren visit the village. Ray keeps busy on the board of the Auckland League Club and is a regular on Community Patrol.

“We drive in marked vehicles around the Massey, Swanson and Waitākere area for two to three hours at a time, helping to keep the community safe,” he says. “We report incidents directly to the police and make sure people aren’t in trouble, that kids aren’t on the street when they shouldn’t be – it’s very rewarding.”

It should be no surprise that Waitākere Gardens is home to several keen gardeners who maintain a vegetable garden that supplies fresh produce to residents. “They harvest twice a week and for a gold coin, you take what you need,” Ray says.

If they’re not into communal gardening, residents can apply to have their own little garden plot; even the non-gardeners take part in the village’s annual Spud Competition.

“It’s very popular”, says Ray. ‘You put your name down, and you’re delivered a bucket of soil, plus one seed potato. You can grow it how you want to. Take it outside in the sun, leave it in the apartment – who cares? And about two months later, you bring your bucket and potato out to the barbecue area for the weigh in. It’s a great occasion.”

There are prizes for the most potatoes and the heaviest potato; residents clap and cheer as each potato is presented to the crowd. At the end of the weigh-in, chocolate bar trophies are awarded; just about everyone goes home with a little bag of potatoes.

After a career that took him all over the world, Ray and Marilyn have found a community of like-minded souls at Waitākere Gardens. They love life, people and to be busy – for both it’s a great place to call home.

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