The perfect place to connect

The residents of The Grove Retirement Village in Ngunnawal, ACT know better than most the benefits of flourishing friendships – and the ideal conditions in which they can thrive.


 “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom,” said the French novelist Marcel Proust. It’s true, good friends are one of the purest joys of life – lifting us up when we’re down, celebrating with us when we’re up, and being reliable shoulders to both laugh and cry on when we need it most. And beyond the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with having a good heart-to-heart, friendship is also a powerful connection that has considerable mental and physical benefits.

Health in numbers

According to a 2010 review of research, the effect of social ties on your life span is twice as strong as that of exercising, and equivalent to that of quitting smoking. Researchers examined 148 previous studies on social links and mortality, which included more than 300,000 participants. They found that the strength of people’s social relationships, including the number of friends in their social circle and their involvement in the community, were all linked to better health and longer lives.

The residents of The Grove Ngunnawal in ACT know better than most the benefits of flourishing friendships – and the ideal conditions in which they can thrive. On the 3rd May, they celebrated the launch of their brand new clubhouse – a warm, welcoming and undeniably luxurious space which has become social heart of its vibrant community.

It was a project that cost $3.9 million, but the ongoing benefits offer something money can’t buy: fun, friendship and the perfect place to swap stories, share history and make memories. With a focus on health, wellness and living a socially active lifestyle, the Clubhouse is home to an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, outdoor bowling green, men’s shed, arts and crafts room, library, lounge and commercial cooking facilities to enable social gatherings and functions onsite.

The perfect place to connect

For resident, Fran Gannon, who was the first to move into The Grove Ngunnawal when it opened in April 2015, the Clubhouse is a life-enhancing addition. “It’s a great opportunity for residents to become even more socially engaged and to meet new people. I’m especially looking forward to the water activities and the gym, as exercise is so important for maintaining good health,” she says. “The Clubhouse enables us to come up and have a cup of coffee, socialise if we want, or simply have quiet time reading, all the while being surrounded by other people. It promotes a great sense of community.”

Having a sense of community and friendship within, helps the body process stress, say researchers – forming one of the links between such relationships and health. Interestingly, it is also the influence of friends that can inspire a healthier life. "One's social life matters above and beyond what we already know about the 'quick fixes' of diet and exercise on health,” says Yang Claire Yang, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, who studies the physiological effects of social ties.

When Yang and her colleagues investigated this health effect, they used four large studies to compare the biomarkers (such as blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and levels of the inflammation marker C-reactive protein), of people aged 12 to 91 who reported being isolation, with those who reported having lots of friends across their lifespan. The result? The people who had weaker social ties also had worse measures of health. Incredibly, they found that a lack of social connections in seniors more than doubled the risk of high blood pressure.

An effortlessly rewarding lifestyle

Back at The Grove Ngunnawal, the Clubhouse is a hive of (friendship-inducing, blood-pressure lowering) activity. There are residents doing gentle laps in the indoor pool, working out at the gym and having a game on the outdoor bowling green.

Grandparents share precious moments with grandchildren in the lounge; the sound of laughter emanates from the arts and craft room where some keen knitters have taken up residence and in the library, there’s the whisper of pages turning as others lose themselves in literature.

Resort-style luxuries aside, it’s a holistic lifestyle, defined by its warm vibe, supportive community and a setting conducive to lasting friendships. But when it comes to how many friends you have there’s only one rule: Quality is more important than quantity.

Find out more about The Grove Retirement Village.