Change Your Space, Change Your Life

Whether you want to downsize your domestic duties, upsize your social horizons, be part of a community or enhance your wellbeing, there are plenty of reasons living in a retirement village is such an appealing prospect.

 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and naturalist Edwin Way Teale was onto something when he said, “Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.” What is it about simplifying things that seems to increase wellbeing? Perhaps it’s because the less you have, the less you have to worry about. It’s not surprising that amongst the over-55s, there’s a rising trend in selling the family home (fueled in part by a booming property market) and moving into something smaller – and ultimately more rewarding.

According to the most recent instalment of the Australian Wellbeing Index, contentment starts to rise over the age of 55. We’re living longer, our expectations are higher, we’re infinitely more savvy to the benefits of being fit and eating well and perspectives about what it means to get older are changing. One thing that’s certain is that downsizing into a retirement village can be a gateway to a vibrant and fulfilling life. You can enhance your health by taking advantage of all the amenities whether swimming in the pool, working out in the gym or strolling around immaculate grounds, without ever having to think about scooping leaves, costly gym fees or mowing the lawns. 

Live more, stress less

These days, there’s no singular definition of what it means to be retired. You might still work in a professional capacity or be a volunteer. You might look after the grandkids or spend time perfecting your golf swing. Perhaps your post-professional ambition is to travel the world, run marathons, or catch up with friends and spend hours swanning around the local cafés. We’ve come to a point where once we ‘stop’ working, we start living a whole other life, with less responsibility and more opportunities to finally pursue all of those unticked items that are the conduit to personal happiness.

Want to travel? The ability to lock up and leave, knowing your property is safe and secure, is what peace of mind is made of. You won’t have to worry about watering the communal gardens while you’re gallivanting around the globe – because you never do. Nor do you have to worry about mowing the lawns, or sweeping the pathways. You get back, walk into your home and everything is just as you left it; pristine, perfectly maintained and so warm and welcoming you’ll be glad to be back.

Show it, stow it, or throw it

Of course, transferring the contents of a family home into a smaller space doesn’t come without its challenges. Although inanimate, the objects you’ve accumulated buzz with historical context, reminding you of your experiences and conjuring up memories. Having to decide what to keep and what to leave behind can be an emotional process. But take it from Oprah’s decluttering guru, Peter Walsh: less is definitely more. In his book Lighten Up, he says, “If I had to give you one word that lies at the root of most people’s emotional pain and anguish, it would be stuff. Having more stuff doesn’t equate to a better life. Stuff has a way of creeping into and taking over our homes.”

It makes sense then that the process of sorting through a lifetime of possessions and personal treasures can be a liberating exercise. But how do you get your head around where to start? Walsh has some sound advice. “If you really value an item and think you need to keep it, then why don’t you show it off as a way of honouring and respecting it. Either you value something, or you don’t. Either you have room for something, or you don’t. Either you truly need something, or you don’t.” Ask yourself this: do you really need the five-seater Chesterfield that’s been in the family for decades, or would starting afresh with something more suitable for your new space be the way forward? Whatever the answer, downsizing gives you the perfect excuse to create a new home, with new memories. Think: less clutter, more meaning.

Embrace the benefits of belonging

People who live in retirement communities know something the rest of the ageing population don’t – villages are vibrant social hubs where friendships flourish. And science has found that beyond the joy of always having someone to have a cuppa with, the benefits of being surrounded by friends and friendly neighbours are immense.

Researchers from Brigham Young University discovered that people who have lots of close relationships have better odds of living a long life than their inherently lonelier counterparts. The study found that family and friends have the ability to influence health for the better, from providing the comfort of physical contact, to engendering a sense of life meaning. “When someone is connected to a group and feels responsibility for other people, that sense of purpose and meaning translates to taking better care of themselves and taking fewer risks.”

There’s no denying that retirement living is geared towards enhancing the social side of life. Neighbours become friends in no time; regular events and functions bring people together, and knowing there’s always someone looking out for you is a shortcut to instant serenity. You could be forgiven for thinking Irish poet William Butler Yeats was familiar with village life himself, when said, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met yet.”