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Are retirement communities the cure for loneliness?

While downsizing makes sense financially, it can still be a daunting prospect. The thought of all the decluttering, not to mention the time, effort, and paperwork involved in selling a house can be overwhelming.

For those that take the plunge to unlock the value in their properties, what they discover is that far from settling for a ‘smaller’ life, entering a retirement community can be the start of living large.

Living alone, the loss of family, or health issues, can all contribute to social isolation, so its’s not surprising that older people find life in a retirement village can provide opportunities for connection and offer support systems that help combat the loneliness many experience.

Newcastle is a traditional steelworks and mining town, and for residents living at Jenny MacLeod Retirement Village, in Wallsend, they can be excused for thinking they have struck gold when it comes to finding a welcoming community to call their own.

With its proximity to shopping, hospitals, and public transport, the village is the perfect choice for those who want to remain in the centre of Newcastle, but also enjoy the benefits of living in a close-knit community.

One of the special features of the village is that it borders the iconic Wallsend Brickworks Park. Hidden among the trees, there are trails for bike riding and bush walking, not to mention some perfect places to picnic with the grandchildren, making the village feel like a country oasis in the city.

Jenny MacLeod resident, Elaine, was initially attracted to the village because of the park. she was thrilled, ‘To have the Brickworks bushwalking trails, and the Tramway trails to the university on the doorstep’.

As an active bushwalker, the connections she has formed in the village have been an important support. ‘I still like heading off for a walk with a couple of close friends in the village. The bird watching is lovely here, we get a range of wetland birds. We are so lucky to be right in town close to the shopping centre, university, and the hospital and yet have these lovely parks and walking trails around us,’ said Elaine.

The village is a hive of activity and Kim Simpson, Village Manager, says, ‘the residents run an active social committee and are always organizing something fun. We have a range of activities such as arts and crafts, bingo, exercises and games groups, not to mention everyone’s favourite, happy hour on a Friday! There is so much to do and anyone that wants to participate is encouraged to join in.

‘Lots of our residents choose to come because they already know someone here, but for those that don’t they quickly make friends. It’s a really relaxed, friendly environment, with a bit of a country-town feel where everyone looks out for each other. It’s actually beautiful to witness the mateship that exists in our village,’ said Kim.

Kim says one of the unique things about the village is that relationships that are built are sustained even when care needs change. While most residents live independently, if a little extra support is needed, or perhaps when a partner has died, Jenny MacLeod can help with the transition into a serviced apartment.

‘Residents can transfer without paying any extra fee. They benefit from on-call nursing care, enjoy chef cooked meals, and continue to join in all the village activities. The extra support, at an affordable price, allows residents to continue to live independently for longer. That’s a real point of difference for us,’ said Kim.

Those who need higher levels of care, also benefit from the close working relationship with Wallsend Manor Aged Care and the team can support residents to make the move that’s right for them.

Kim says the strong community spirit is what she loves most about the village. ‘We’ve created a village where everyone looks after their neighbours. I’ve worked in many of the newer, more upmarket villages, but they can be a bit cold. I’ve chosen to work in this type of community because of the people. Both residents and staff are the most honest, caring, hardworking, wonderful people you could ever meet and it’s a privilege to be a part of this community.’


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