Residents who’ve moved into over 50s communities have told Downsizing.com.au how they’ve found friends and escaped isolation and loneliness.

Below are a series of case studies from communities in Queensland and Victoria.

These case studies support new research by Downsizing.com.au which has found that around one in two potential downsizers have experienced increased loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same survey found that 59 per cent of potential downsizers are looking at moving into an over 50s community to find new friends and nearly one in five said they were looking at moving into an over 50s community to find a partner.

Megan finds connection and community at land lease community

Megan Frahm felt isolated and lonely after downsizing from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

When COVID hit last year and restrictions brought an end to her group activities such as book clubs, knitting groups and social card games, Megan found her world became even smaller without her social network and family nearby.

Megan Frahm didn't enjoy living in an apartment block and instead moved to a land lease community

“I lived in an apartment by myself for three years and it was a reclusive kind of existence,” Megan said.

Megan, in her 70s, decided to become one of the first homeowners at Halcyon Rise over-50s lifestyle community, south of Brisbane.

Megan is now involved in several social activities including a craft group and helped to set up the onsite library.

“I’m a very social person so my experience of apartment living prompted the move to Halcyon and now my life has improved dramatically because there are people here who actually care,” Megan said.

“At any age, it can be intimidating to find a community outside of family, work or hobbies, so I welcomed the opportunity to move into the new Halcyon Rise development and have activities, groups and a built-in community on site.

“We also have a happy hour every Thursday where we talk and laugh and because of that, we know each other.”

The location of Halcyon Rise at Logan Reserve was also a plus for Megan, offering seclusion and safety within the gated community as well as being close to both Brisbane and the Gold Coast where her son and daughter live respectively.

While Megan was ready to make the move from apartment living to a lifestyle community, she recommends that people do their research first and visit the developments to find out whether this style of living is suited to their needs.

Gerry and Ted became friends on day one

Enjoying happy hour and trying to beat each other at trivia is all part of a week’s fun for retirees Gerry Swan and Ted Wright who’ve become close friends at a Queensland retirement village.

Gerry and Ted are residents at Reside’s Brookland Retirement Village at Robertson, an outer southern suburb of Brisbane.

Gerry Swan and Ted Wright

Many people often move into retirement villages for companionship, as it can feel lonely rattling around in a big family house. But the silver lining in leaving it all that space behind is meeting others just like you.

“I’d been living in Caloundra for 16 years where I had a lot of acquaintances but not many close friends, so moving closer to Brisbane was easy and it also allowed me to see my kids more often,“ Gerry said.

In Caloundra, he’d taken up gardening in a big way with hot houses and around 500 orchids.

“But I realised I wasn’t getting any younger and if I moved into Brookland I wouldn’t have so much work to do around my yard,” he said.

Gerry counts himself lucky to have met  former auto mechanic, car salesman and taxi driver Ted Wright, last August on the very day he moved in.

As the furniture people were unloading his truck, I invited him over to have a coffee with me on my front verandah, so I met him straightaway,” said Ted.

“We live just across the road from each other but we’re not in each other’s pockets. We just enjoy having coffee and going to some of the activities.”

Gerry was also very happy to have someone show him around and introduce him to some of the other residents.

Ted and I  are more or less in the same age group. I’m a bit younger than him but he’s very personable. We enjoy going to happy hour on Fridays and try to beat each other on Trivia nights. It’s a good life here,” he said.

For Ted, a father of four daughters, moving into Brookland in March last year, following the death of his wife, was quite an adjustment.

“We lived in a big four bedroom home and we loved it. But after my wife passed away it was hard for me to leave but easy at the same time, which is kind of difficult to describe,” he says.

In the short term he’d busied himself with garage sales and having the family’s antiques valued and sold.

It was the start of COVID-19 when he moved to Brookland, so it wasn’t easy to meet other residents at gatherings. But as soon as the lockdown ended, Ted  threw himself into the social life, joining several committees.

“Ted’s an outgoing sort of bloke and I’m no shrinking violet myself,” Gerry points out. “So we just hit it off together doing the same activities and we’re right. It’s nice to have someone here that’s a bit special to the others.“

Jan and Christine bonded over shared life experiences

Jan Dale and Christine Magee are proving that at any age, new friendships can be just around the corner. 

The fast friends met when Jan moved to Bolton Clarke’s Inverpine retirement village, north of Brisbane, in November 2020. They quickly bonded over their shared life experiences, and sharp, witty sense of humour.

We didn’t know each other prior, but we feel like we’ve known each other a lifetime!” says Jan. “We’ve got lots in common, including the same sense of humour and sarcasm, and we’ve both lost our husbands.” 

“I’d been going a little spare at home by myself but now I’m always having fun with others. 

“Moving to Inverpine was the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Christine says the friendship grew organically and they’ve now got a group of four in their ‘lunch club.’

“We like going out and getting about for some shopping or lunch or both. We also play cards most Saturdays,” she said.

Christine said moving to Inverpine was a natural choice for her nearly three years ago.

“I worked and volunteered in the aged care community for 10 years. The friendliness of everyone and the freedom I have here is great,” Christine said.

“I can do what I want when I want. I’m not answering to anybody but myself, and there’s plenty to do.”

Shirley loves community events

For the last 16 years, Shirley Bauer has been a resident on an Ingenia Gardens seniors rental village at Horsham in Victoria.  

“I moved here with my husband in 2005 when we were ready to downsize and retire and we absolutely loved having a community and neighbours around us that we could mingle with,” Ms Bauer said. 

He sadly passed away four years after we moved in, but since then it’s been wonderful to have so many activities to be involved in as I’ve been living on my own for a long time now.”

Shirley is an enthusiastic participant in Ingenia Gardens Activate lifestyle program, which has sought to entertain, engage and energise its senior residents, while also reducing loneliness, over the last decade. 

Activities include monthly events, group excursions, community fundraising events, competitions, educational sessions – most of which are free and accessible to all. Residents are also encouraged to manage their own resident-driven social club events.

“I’ve always enjoyed getting involved in as many of the Activate events and activities as I can,” Shirley said.

“It’s very seldom that there’s a community event I don’t go to, and I always love being part of the welcome events for new residents to say hello and meet them.”