A Guide to Living Life to the Full in Your Retirement
Retirement today is about being proactive and making the lifestyle decisions that suit you.
This means living life to the full, and to match this new attitude to life senior-style, there is a wonderful choice of accommodation options and services specifically designed to meet your needs. Where and how we live contributes significantly to our sense of well-being.
As we get older our home becomes more central in our lives and there are many options to consider including the help or care you may need.
In this article, we aim to provide valuable information to assist you as make these important decisions.
Staying in your current home
Many people value the house they have lived in for many years and plan to 'stay put' in their retirement.
You have security. Your garden may be a cherished hobby.
Neighbourly support may be important too.
Some see their home as a refuge for the family to come back to. Let's face it, these days the return of the 'kids' for lengthy stays in their 20s and 30s is not uncommon!
There are also financial issues to think about. Home isn't just a place in which to live - it also may be your biggest asset.
Moving to a different home: Downsizing...or upsizing!
Another option is to sell your house and downsize to a smaller one. If it's less expensive, the money freed up can have a significant impact on your lifestyle.
Your choice to trade down may be for lifestyle reasons. If the maintenance of a larger home and garden feels like a burden or if you want to live nearer to family, you could move to a smaller house, townhouse or city apartment.
When downsizing, keep in mind the need for space to pursue your new leisure or business interests, and for family or friends coming to stay.
Moving to a retirement community can be another way of downsizing. You continue to live independently but have access to additional facilities and support systems in the future.
But 'getting smaller' is not the only way to go. Moving to a larger home, or 'upsizing', is often the choice of those who want more space, either for hobbies, a small business, guests or grandchildren.
If you're willing to pay for some assistance such as home help or garden services, then a bigger place won't weigh you down.
Modifying your house
Whether you stay put or move, you may consider altering your house to accommodate changing needs.
As you grow older, especially if you have a disability, your home has a special importance as you are likely to spend more time there.
Physical barriers or poor design can compromise your enjoyment of living there, and increase dependency as well as the risk of an accident.
It is worth considering any modifications, large or small, that could make life easier - from adding a ramp in place of steps to mounting a grab rail in the bathroom.
Selling your house and renting (from a private landlord) is another choice you might make for financial or lifestyle reasons.
The advantages are that you can release money tied up in your home, you are not responsible for maintenance, and you can shift easily.
There are disadvantages, of course - you may feel less secure as the landlord may sell the house, the rent may go up, and you may not feel the same enjoyment of house and garden as you did when you were the home-owner.
Subsidised rental accommodation is also available specifically for older people. This can be provided by local councils, local marae, religious and welfare organisations such as churches and the Returned Services Association, or by Housing New Zealand.
Support in your own home
Access to care is an important ingredient in the lifestyle planning for seniors. Services offering support and care in the home are rapidly growing.
'Home-based Support', sometimes combined with Respite Care and Day Care programmes, provides significant assistance so that people can stay in their homes as long as possible.
These services can involve a wide range of assistance from medical/ nursing care and personal care to household tasks such as cooking and cleaning.
Respite Care is a short stay in a rest home or hospital to give a break to people who are caring for their elderly.
Day Care programmes are often based at a rest home or hospital, and provide both activities and social interaction.
These services aim to help people with essential needs, so they can retain their independence as long as possible.
A retirement village is not an 'old folks home', nor is it a 'rest home'. A village offers a fresh lifestyle to those who want to live independently in their own home, whether they are 60 or 90.
The term 'retirement village' covers an ever-increasing variety of services. Villages range from groups of villas or townhouses, to serviced apartments, to full service communities.
Some complexes have units or villas only, while others have three levels of provision: independent housing, rest home, and hospital.
Some retirement villages are beginning to bring in to the person's own dwelling 'rest home level' care and even 'hospital level' care, rather than have them move out to a residential facility.
Village units and apartments are also being built with such future space requirements in mind. A retirement village may look like a quiet rural community of neat homes, gorgeous gardens and winding lanes, with a community centre and leisure facilities at its heart. Or it may be an 'unfenced' village, with homes scattered through ordinary suburban streets within a network of a community and care centre.
Alternatively the village may be an apartment-style, resembling an elegant beach-front hotel with music playing in its leafy atrium.
In the past, villages have mainly attracted the 70+ age group, but the age is creeping down with new lifestyle villages for over 55s.
These new-look villages are enticing even younger third-lifers who may not be fully retired and are seeking a more balanced lifestyle.
It would be hard not to enjoy an active and social life with a business centre, gym, pool, walking tracks, cafe and restaurant on site.
For those who want more help, serviced apartment complexes have a variety of support services, and attract a wide range of people, from the frail elderly to still-working single men and women.
Other Retirement Communities
A different style of retirement community is an Abbeyfield House, which has been called 'flatting for seniors'.
An Abbeyfield House aims to be a typical house in a typical street with family-styled independent living for up to ten men and women, usually in their 70s, 80s and beyond, at a price that is affordable to most older people.
It fills a gap in the range of options, offering greater support and social contact than independent living units, and providing for those who do not need Rest Home care.
Residents have a comfortable suite, furnished as they wish, with ensuite facilities. They have their privacy and come and go as they please.
A live-in housekeeper/cook looks after the house, shops and provides the main meals, and cares generally for the residents.
Rest homes and hospitals
Rest homes and hospitals provide for people whose needs have reached the point where it is no longer appropriate that they remain living in their own houses.
However, rest homes and hospitals are a far cry from the dull institutions of old. Today residents can enjoy stimulation and security in a bright and welcoming environment.
There are five levels of 'need' provided for:
1. Rest Home - for people whose needs are such that they need some support and care, but not as high as those needing special dementia or hospital care.
2. Dementia Care - provides a safe and secure environment for those with dementia.
3. Continuing Care Hospitals - long-term hospital care for people who need care 24 hours a day.
4. Specialised Hospital Care - long-term hospital care for people with dementia who require a high level of nursing care.
5. Hospices/Palliative Care - specialist hospital care for the terminally ill.