Residents in Australian retirement communities have told their personal stories of sharing friendship, fun and food to get through the coronavirus pandemic.
The case studies below - two from Victoria and one from Queensland - illustrate how retirement communities are helping older Australians to keep physically and mentally healthy.
Bev and Bill Abbenbroek (Maroochydore, Queensland)
Bev and Bill Abbenbroek returned from an overseas trip around a month ago and then self-isolated in their apartment at Aura’s The Avenue complex at Maroochydore.
The Abbenbroeks were happy to see that many of their 31 fellow retirement village residents were keen to support them.
“When we came back from overseas, we had been travelling for 36 hours and, although we had food in our unit, we were tired and didn’t really feel like cooking,” Ms Abbenbroek said.
“We got off the bus and went into the retirement complex, and were excited to find that one of our neighbours brought up an egg and bacon pie and left it on our doorstep.
“In addition, quite a number of the residents emailed us and several spoke to us on the phone, and every one of them offered services to help us.
“All the residents showed us tremendous love and care.”
Mr and Mrs Abbenbroek moved into the retirement village in mid-last year, after Bill had a period of ill-health which meant it was more difficult to maintain their North Buderim house.
“We developed a good relationship with our neighbours, including through holding community events together, that helped us all bond. That bonding is now really showing through when we are in a crisis,” Ms Abbenbroek said.
“Another lady baked a beautiful cake for us and put it on our doorstep, it is a wonderful atmosphere where people care for each other.”
Since February, Mr and Mrs Abbenbroek have been travelling to Indonesia to teach English in a theological college and connect with churches in the area. The couple are associate missionaries with Australian Christian Churches.
Stage one of The Avenue opened in July 2019, and stage two is currently under construction, including additional community facilities.
Judith and Don Franich (Lyndarum, Victoria)
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Judith and Don Franich have enjoyed the friendship and fellowship among residents at Lifestyle Lyndarum, in Melbourne’s northern outskirts.
“We are semi-isolated to start with, living in a small community which is gated at the weekend,” Ms Franich said.
“When we go for a walk, someone on their verandah waves and speaks to us, or someone walking the other way with their dog talks to us. This means that, at this village, isolation is not necessarily desolation.
“In addition, a chap comes in and takes orders for food delivery, and the local pharmacy does the same thing.
“As well, the community manager arranged for us to put notices in our window, with our thoughts for the day, and to arrange beanie toys go in windows for a treasure hunt.
“Importantly, we’ve got five kids and our family are not worrying about us, because we are here.”
Ms Franich was so happy with the living environment that she wrote a letter to Lifestyle Communities CEO James Kelly.
“It is my considered opinion that we residents are in one of the safest possible places to live,” Ms Franich said in the letter.
Mr and Mrs Franich moved into the Lifestyle Lyndarum village two and a half years ago, after selling up their family home of 40 years. The couple found they had gradually lost connection with their neighbours in their former suburb.
Sue Hilder (Warragul, Victoria)
Sue Hilder has lived at the Lifestyle Warragul community located 102km south-east of Melbourne for the past six and a half years.
In response to the coronavirus situation, Ms Hilder has organised a roster of volunteers, including herself, who take lonely or less mobile neighbours out for a walk around the village.
“We organise to take our neighbours out for walks around the village. It is mainly for our single neighbours who have walking frames and walking sticks. It is hard for these people to find the motivation to go for a walk, when they are on their own,” Ms Hilder said.
“They love going out and having chats, sometimes it takes me an hour to not go very far with them.”
Ms Hilder said she moved into Lifestyle Warragul 12 months ago after her husband passed away.
“You’ve got company, you don’t have out there (in the general community)," Ms Hilder said.
"You can join a group that goes to the movies or lunch, or can sit out on your front verandah and have someone to say hello to."
Difference between retirement communities and aged care
The above stories illustrate how retirement and lifestyle communities are providing a supportive environment for their residents, during the coronavirus pandemic.
This supportive environment is unlikely to be available to the same extent in the general community.
It is also important to recognise the difference between retirement and lifestyle communities and residential aged care facilities.
Retirement and lifestyle communities are regulated under State and Territory legislation. They allow residents to live independently in their dwellings, while also being able to access communal facilities and services. Most of these communities have a vibrant residents' community network.
In contrast, residential aged care facilities are regulated under Federal legislation and deliver around-the-clock nursing care to frail residents, who are unable to live independently.
If you want to move into a retirement or lifestyle community, you’ve come to the right place.
Downsizing.com.au is Australia’s leading directory of retirement and lifestyle communities - you can start your search right here.