NSW-based retiree Geoff Thorley jokes that he probably needs a social secretary to keep up with the activities that fill his days.

“First there’s the local Port Macquarie 4WD drive club,” 76-year-old Geoff explains.

“Then there’s the caravan club, the local church, the art group, the men’s shed, the 'Port coffee mobsters', cooking classes, sailing and walking groups.”

Geoff’s launchpad for all these activities is his home at Hometown Australia’s Newport Community, located in Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

He’s one of many retirees who are making new friends at a Hometown Australia Community, and in doing so having more opportunities to find new hobbies, stay active or just have fun.

Retirees seeking social interaction thanks to COVID-19 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many retirees and downsizers are taking a fresh look at over 50s communities.

These potential downsizers haven’t enjoyed the home isolation brought on by COVID-19, and instead are keen to explore friendly places where they will be surrounded by like-minded individuals and enjoy and find a sense of belonging.

More downsizers are keen to make friends in an over 50s community

In fact, a survey conducted by Downsizing.com.au during 2020 and 2021 found 48 per cent of potential downsizers experienced increased loneliness during the pandemic.

The same survey found 59 per cent of these potential downsizers were looking at moving into an over 50s community to make new friends.

Some 18 per cent - or nearly one in five - were looking at moving into an over 50s community to find a partner.

According to the survey, the most highly sought-after interaction opportunities in communities included outdoor spaces, trips and tours, a pool, group dinners and pet-friendly communities.

Outdoor pools, such as the pool at Hometown Australia's Newport Community,
are a popular place to make new friends

Make connections at Hometown Australia Communities

Hometown Australia operates 52 land lease communities occupied by some 10,000 residents across NSW, South Australia, and Queensland.

These communities provide a wide range of opportunities for social interaction.

Most of Hometown Australia’s Communities have a clubhouse and outdoor pool, which provide great environments for residents to mingle.

You may also find bowling greens, gyms, libraries, cinemas, tennis courts, men’s sheds and open space areas.

Geoff Thorley at the men's shed at Hometown Australia's Newport Community at Port Macquarie
Geoff Thorley at the men's shed at Hometown Australia's Newport Community at Port Macquarie

Most are also pet-friendly, which means more opportunities to stop and chat with a potential new friend as you’re out walking Rover or Fido.

Hometown Australia Communities aim to provide active lifestyle communities for over 50s looking to downsize.

From art groups, swimming clubs and chair pilates – there are different activities across the 52 communities for like-minded residents to join, make new friends, pick up a hobby and enjoy.

Hometown Australia communities are designed for over 50s who want an active lifestyle

Many of these communities are also ideally located in holiday hotspots such as Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gold Coast regions, NSW’s Mid-North, North Coast and Port Stephens regions and South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.

Hometown Australia Communities are located in holiday hotspots, such as the Sunshine Coast

Residents in these communities purchase a dwelling and then benefit from a secure, long-term ground lease with Hometown Australia.

This means no stamp duty or council rates are payable.

The affordable price point of these homes, along with lack of government taxes, allows many retirees to top up their retirement savings, after selling their family home and moving into a Hometown Australia Community.

“A great place to live”

Geoff Thorley settled into Newport five years ago, after a chance encounter with one of the community’s residents.

“I’d had another retirement community in mind but they suggested I take a look,” he said.

I did and I liked what I saw. The place also appealed to me as I wanted to be closer to my kids and grandchildren who live in rural Queensland.”

Geoff liked the idea of designing his own house in the relatively new development and now has a two-bedroom home with an office and two outdoor spaces.

Taking pride of place in his backyard is his Crockerie - a landscaped fishpond inhabited by fake `baby crocs’ and decorated with real crockery and also two pairs of Crocs shoes.

Geoff Thorley at his 'crockerie' at Hometown Australia's Newport Community in Port Macquarie

It’s almost a bona fide tourist attraction in its own right.

Meanwhile, Geoff and his 14 mates at Newport’s Men’s Shed are busy with their plans for building a new rest area in the park.

Geoff is well-placed to do this since he had a 34-year career in Sydney at Woolworths’ construction arm, building and refurbishing the supermarkets.

“Although several of the people involved in The Men’s Shed are better at projects than me,” he says, modestly. `”A couple of them are real artisans.”

Would he advise other downsizers to consider moving in here?

“Of course, it’s a great place to live,” he says. “You can get out of it as much as you want. I didn’t know anyone here when I moved in but with my involvement in the caravan club, it all started from there.”

Now everybody seems to know his name.

Geoff points out that there’s also plenty to entertain residents who like to live at a gentle pace including bowls and petanque.

“What’s more, a couple of the people here are thespians and have put on a show and they have more planned,” said Geoff.

One of Geoff’s favourite activities is to set out with a friend to Doctor’s Walk, which he says is one of the best walking tracks around Port Macquarie with many places to rest to take in the  spectacular views.

Find out more

Hometown Australia’s website allows potential buyers to easily search communities across Australia, and see what facilities and homes they offer.

The details of the community manager are listed alongside each community, allowing you to easily find out more information.

* This content has been prepared by Downsizing.com.au on behalf of Hometown Australia

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