22 December 2022

Moving into a retirement village early was the best decision Sheila made

| James Coleman
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Sheila McAlpine

Farrer Goodwin Village resident Sheila McAlpine. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Sheila McAlpine didn’t have any major illnesses or mobility issues, but she still up and left her home to move into a retirement village at the age of 70. Six weeks later, she set off on a three-month holiday overseas. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It was the best overseas trip I’ve ever had,” she says.

“I didn’t have to worry about housesitters or animals or anything like that. I just locked the door and went and came back and there was my apartment.”

Retirement villages might conjure images of walking frames and on-call carers, but for Sheila, who moved into a ground-floor apartment at the Goodwin Village in Farrer in early 2019, it’s not so much about the accessibility to medical and cleaning services as the personal freedom.

“That’s what Goodwin is to me – the ability to have the freedom to live my life without all the anxieties of owning your own home.”

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And Sheila certainly knows about the stresses of home ownership, as one of the founding members of the Urambi Village in Kambah. Established in 1976 and comprising 72 townhouses, this community housing development pioneered a new Sydney-inspired style in Canberra and – along with Parliament House and the High Court of Australia – is on the Australian Institute of Architects’ Register of Nationally Significant 20th Century Architecture.

“I have always lived in communities and I believe in communities and the strength of them,” Sheila says.

“I see Goodwin as another community.”

Sheila lived on her own for many years, but after a divorce and her children leaving home, it became increasingly difficult to manage on her own.

“You’ve no idea what it’s like for a single woman to negotiate with tradesmen – very frustrating,” she says.

She, together with her friend of 40 years, moved to Goodwin Village Farrer in February 2019, drawn by the organisation’s not-for-profit business model and luxury-style facilities. Goodwin Village Farrer is a finalist for the Best Retirement Living Development Award of the National Retirement Living Awards 2023.

An average day now starts with breakfast, followed by an on-site exercise class a couple of mornings a week and an online course with a ‘University of the Third Age’ (designed for seniors).

“Then there’s shopping, cooking, gardening, catching up with friends – just generally relaxing and enjoying my life,” she says.

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“It’s about the convenience of being free from the demands of living in your own place with all of the maintenance and moving in here at a time and age when I’m still able to enjoy the freedom it gives.”

Her advice is to move into a retirement village five years before you get to the stage when you think you might need to.

“Before you have chronic illness, or your partner has died, because trying to sell your house on your own is a nightmare. Do it when you’ve got a bit more energy, and you’re not having to cope with all this at the same time there is major upheaval in your life.”

Visit Goodwin Aged Care Services for more information.


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Look at these recently. Read through all the fine print. Absolutely no way

People better be absolutely sure they want to go into a retirement home, as once in one, unless you have sufficient other funds, you are trapped there, as you won’t get all your money back. Just been through that with my parents old unit. They were in the unit for one to two decades (my mother moved out to live with me. My father had died.), but even though real-estate has increased greatly in that time, less money was returned than it cost to buy in all those years ago. My mother would have got just as much out of moving into an apartment, as they got little from the retirement village and didn’t go to many of the events. A similar nearby private apartment tripled in value in that time and would have return about a million dollars more. On top of that there was a high monthly fee for the retirement village; far higher than body corporate.

Agreed. I’ve seen too many people trapped in this situation and unable to afford to move.

It’s a life style choice not an investment for your children. The costs are higher because the services are higher. My mother moved into one 6 years ago and her health improved out of site. Like you my brother was concerned about his inheritance rather than my mothers quality of life.

Quality of life would have been as good in the apartment, maybe better, as the one looked at was a flat, short walk to the neighbouring shops with supermarket, etc, and cafes. There would have been a lift too; something they didn’t have in the retirement apartment. They rarely went to any events at the retirement village, so didn’t get that benefit. Mum nursed my father, and then when a few years later it became her turn, I looked after her for a year in my home. The retirement village wouldn’t have looked after her. Waste and lose of money. Rip off!

Retirement villages are not aged care homes. They are for people who can look after themselves or have other part time care in unit arrangements. They aren’t sold as care provided residences. They have onsite emergency help. It sounds like your parents moved in when they needed care rather than could look after themselves. If you buy one and don’t use the available facilities, it is hardly the fault of the village.

I said they had lived in a retirement village for up to two decades. They were still active enough to climb the stairs to their apartment for most of that time. My father died there, as my mother looked after him, when he became bed ridden. When she became too frail she had to move in with me, so I could care for her. I did this for a year, until she became bed ridden, and then for the last couple of months of her life, she moved into a nursing home. Nursing homes return the lump sum of money paid, which is more than retirement homes do.

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