The Lowdown on Living in a Retirement Village…

… written by someone who is doing it.

My previous posts were about the committees at Mountain View and the difference they make, but there’s a whole lot more to a great retirement village than how well committees work together.

The Queensland Government defines an age-friendly community as “one that enables people of all ages to actively participate in community life by ensuring older people are free from age-related barriers that prevent participation and engagement“.

So how does Mountain View stack up as an age-friendly community?

I’ll get to that, but first, let’s get a few myths out of the way.

Living in a retirement village is restrictive

Yes, there are by-laws and guidelines, but try living in any community without rules and let me know how that goes. The by-laws are in place to ensure a peaceful life for everyone, but they are neither harsh nor unconscionable (as per the legislation). Your unit or apartment might be yours, but common property is shared by all – just like the roads and streets we drive on. Can you imagine how long we’d last without road rules? The same goes for common property. We need rules to make sure everyone enjoys a peaceful life.

Retirement villages are full of old people

You only have to be fifty five to buy a unit at Mountain View, but tell a fifty-five-year-old they’re old, and I don’t think it will end well. At the other end of the age spectrum, some of our residents have celebrated their 100th birthdays and are still doing well. Last year I spotted ninety-nine-year-old Audrey walking up the stairs to attend a function – yes, there is an elevator, but Audrey preferred the stairs. Age is just a number, but I reckon where you live has an impact on how well you spend your final rotations around the sun.

Did I mention my neighbour, Noeline, and how she flew to Perth a few years ago to pick up her new campervan (the Dove)? Noeline drove the Dove across the Nullarbor and back to Murwillumbah, on her own. And did I mention Noeline was in her eighties at the time? At time of writing, Noeline is camping in the Dove somewhere in Central Queensland. She isn’t home much since she bought that campervan.

I’m not ready to retire yet

I know this one well. That’s exactly what I said when I first visited Mountain View in 2015. I was sixty-five at the time and still working very long hours in a job I loved. My first day back at work was a doozy – full on – and stressful, and I thought, ‘to heck I’m not ready to retire!’. I flew back from Central Queensland – looked at units (with a new perspective) and put in an offer on the very unit I’m writing from now. Buying a unit in Mountain View fast-tracked my feasible (financial) retirement date by a few years. And trust me, getting used to retirement is easier than it looks. I’m still leading a productive and busy life – but on my terms, not somebody else’s.

But I can’t Take my pet

Yes you can. New legislation prohibits blanket bans on residents having pets. You have to apply to the Strata Committee to have a pet, but that’s as much for your convenience as the village. If you have a medical emergency, management needs to know who to contact to collect your fur-or-feathered friend until you are well. The likelihood of your application being denied is pretty slim at Mountain View (unless you want a horse, or camel).

So, now we have some myths out of the way, let’s explore Mountain View in depth.

It’s all about independence

My home in Mountain View is situated on twenty-eight acres of beautiful bushland, so there is no shortage of wildlife and nature around us. We are high enough not to be impacted when the Tweed River floods; in the shadow of Wollumbin – Mt Warning; and close enough to town for shopping and medical appointments.

I share my life in this community with almost three-hundred others who have reached their senior years. I don’t know all their names, but I know a lot of faces. And then there are some I meet for the first time, despite each of us having lived here more than five years. And that’s what makes this place unique, you can participate – or not. Some close the door on their working life and prefer to stay behind that closed door, and that’s fine. Retirement is meant to be done your way – not someone else’s.

The majority of units that make up Mountain View are known as Independent Living Units (ILUs). Picture the home you are in now, and imagine it in a community of like-minded people, where decisions made can affect all. We are independent of each other, but connected in many ways. You are as independent as you would be in any home in suburbia, except you have a connection to others in the village by virtue of common property that is shared by all.

Hate cooking? (yep!)

The other half of the equation of living at Mountain View is a supported apartment in The Lodge. I’ve got my eye on an apartment in The Lodge for when I’m over cooking for myself, or struggling (I mean really struggling) to put a fitted sheet on my bed. It is still independent living – you come and go as you please – but there are a few supports in place. Meals are in the Dining Room, fully catered by an amazing team of chefs and assistants. And someone puts the fitted sheet on the bed for you, and washes the sheets and towels – you only have to take care of your personal washing.

But there’s more to The Lodge than just the extra support. When you step into the building, the feeling of belonging is all around you. The residents in this part of Mountain View are the epitome of a great community. I had the pleasure of staying two nights in one of the respite rooms a few years ago, and I loved it. So I’m talking from experience when I say how great the Lodge community is.

So, who’s the boss?

I’m glad you asked that question. Aveo Mountain View Retirement Village is owned by a Canadian company called Brookfield. Brookfield is a large reputable company who bought Aveo a few years ago, but kept the Aveo name. Brookfield has made huge improvements since then. At time of writing (May 2023), our community centre is closed while a significant refurbishment happens over the next three months. Most notably will be the addition of a Bar and a Gym, not that I would endorse using both in the same sitting, unless of course you use the Gym first. Having said that, would that defeat the purpose of a workout?, (just asking for a friend…).

There are a lot of people at the helm of Brookfield, but the one that stands out for us is Julie A. Although Julie travels between Brisbane and the Gold Coast a lot, you’ll often see her here at Mountain View. We like to think it’s because she loves our village as much as we do, but realistically, it’s Julie’s job to make sure the villages in her realm have everything they need and are working well. Don’t worry, we’re pretty quick to give Julie our wish list when we want something extra. So far she is rolling her eyes at my suggestion to build a new level on top of the community centre, and I get that that’s a bit of a tall order, but hey, I’ll keep adding it to the wish list – just in case.

Let’s talk about David P

Mountain View is owned by Brookfield, but is managed by our very own David P. It seems that to get a job at Mountain View you have to be named David – there’s no shortage of David’s here. David P is our village manager, David W is our key maintenance guru, and another David is our go-to bus driver.

As a manager, we couldn’t ask for a better boss – well – he’s not like your average boss. David manages the village and looks after the day-to-day things like organising contractors and paying bills, but he does a whole lot more. David is there when you have a question, or need help with something. If he doesn’t have an immediate answer, he knows where to find it. And like any community, things can occasionally go pear-shaped. David doesn’t take sides in any neighbourly disagreements, but finds a solution that works for both sides, in the most respectful way. I think it’s his calm, quiet nature that shines through in times of trouble.

Did I mention that if you throw almost three-hundred random people into a close community, you will have occasional problems? Well, we do, but luckily the problems are few and far between, and most are issues that can be easily fixed. Harder ones might need a little help from an external agency that David is happy to refer residents to, if needed.

Did I mention Ellen, and the girls?

David P is awesome, but he isn’t Superman, and you know what they say:

Behind every great man there’s a great woman – or three – or more…

David has the support of a great team of women in the administration office. Ably assisted by Ellen, his 2IC, David knows that when he can’t be onsite, the village is in good hands. I reckon Ellen knows every resident, all two-hundred-and-seventy-plus of them. And she’s been here long enough to have a good handle on the history of Mountain View as well. Even though she is tucked away in a corner of the main office most of the time, Ellen knows what’s going on around the place, and is a valuable asset to us all.

You call – they’re there

And then we have our fabulous office girls – not being sexist here – it’s just that since I’ve lived here, we’ve only had girls in the office. Our Sherrin and Jess are amazing. Each had huge shoes to fill in taking over from our previous team, but they fill every inch of those big shoes admirably. Well, implying our recently-retired Kerrie’s shoes are big might be a stretch too far, given she is knee-high to a grasshopper, but her heart is bigger than Phar Lap’s. Sherrin and Jess stepped in and stepped up, and do an amazing job. They can be seen zipping around the village in the ‘cart‘ (a glorified golf-buggy) delivering meals, important notes, or attending to residents in distress.

You call – they’re there.

I reckon we’ve all had to call them once or twice when we’ve locked ourself out of our unit – some more than others (just saying…).

Of course, our needs don’t stop once the office closes. Yep – we can even lock ourselves out of our unit after office hours – but never fear – the lovely Linda is likely to be on the night shift making sure we are all okay. Things happen as we age, and sometimes we need a second opinion on whether we need an ambulance, or not. When the office door closes behind our admin team at 5pm, the lovely Linda, or any one of our great after-hours staff, takes over. We all have an emergency call button that works 24/7, if we need it. Regular testing of the button ensures it works effectively, and reminds us of how to use it, just in case.

Mr Fix-It

David W has the big cart – the cart that looks like a miniature ute. And our Dave zips around all day attending to the fix-it jobs. He’s in demand for a lot of things, not the least of which is turning off the water when needed – he knows where all the taps are. Dave’s been here for a long time – not meaning he is getting old – but I reckon he must have started working here right out of school because he is still young. And Dave knows every inch of the village, so he’d better not be thinking of retiring any time soon, unless he moves into one of the units – and trust me – that could be arranged (when he’s old enough).

Pam – The Sales Pitcher

If you want to buy a unit in our village you’ll meet Pam who takes care of sales at Mountain View. Pam is as passionate about the village as the residents are – well – at least 95% of the residents (more about that later…). Pam knows her stuff and will help you make the most informed decision about your unit and the type of contract that is best for you. When you’re all settled into your new home, Pam will deliver a fantastic welcome gift, just to add an even more personal touch to the deal.

So that’s it?

Well, that’s it for the Aveo staff (I hope I didn’t miss anyone), but there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. What turns a great village into a spectacular village is the volunteers who donate their time and energy in so many ways.

When I think of volunteers, there are a lot of people who top the list here at Mountain View.

The village shop is run by a team of great volunteers, ably managed by Coral. I won’t name them individually for fear of missing someone, but they know who they are and should know that without them, our little shop wouldn’t function at all. Six days a week you can buy a loaf of bread, milk, chocolate, or even a home-cooked quiche, as well as heaps of other grocery items. Did I mention chocolate? And for those last minute gifts, there are shelves of home-made craft items for sale.

Bingo is on – and so is Trivia

There is no shortage of activities at Mountain View, arranged and managed by volunteers and the Social Committee. Darrell and Margaret make sure the coffee machine is primed, the biscuit barrel is full, and clean cups are on the shelf. Neville and Janet take care of Trivia on Monday nights, and there’s Bingo every Thursday. Friday night’s Happy Hour is popular, and so is the monthly Morning Tea. If residents can’t find something to do at Mountain View, they’re not reading the monthly newsletter or the notes dropped in their mailbox. The hardest part is fitting all your favourite activities into each week.

Maureen L and Linda deserve a special mention for being the driving force behind the food that abounds at most functions. These girls slave over a hot stove, even on sweltering summer days, to make sure a delicious meal is on the table for Happy Hour and every other event. No need to emphasise how much we love these two fabulous ladies, and the many others who can be found in the kitchen before and after events that involve food.

The kitchen isn’t my happy place – but I can type

And for those of us, like me, who are not at peace in the kitchen, there are plenty of other ways to volunteer. Luckily I can type, so being secretary on the Strata Committee is how I give back to the community.

And on the subject of committees, we have two very important committees at Mountain View – the Strata Committee and the Residents Committee. Both have different functions, but the same goal – they want to make this the best retirement village it can be, and it’s working.

We are a Strata Scheme, but we have Freehold and Leasehold owners (it’s complicated). We have to have a Strata Committee, but the Residents Committee is optional. 2023 is the year the two committees kind of amalgamated, but not officially. They are still two separate committees but due to some exceptional circumstances, the two committees have an intertwining of members. There are seven members on the Residents Committee, and six on the Strata Committee, but three members are on both committees.

Two committees – one goal.

Peter is the Chairperson on the Residents Committee and a member of the Strata Committee. Ken is Treasurer on the Strata Committee and a member of the Residents Committee (and the Social Committee). I’m Secretary and Chairperson on the Strata Committee and a member of the Residents Committee. Conflict of interest, you might ask? Nope – not when we are all working towards the same goal. If we had different agendas there could be potential problems, but our agendas are the same – we want what is best for every resident – we might just have different ways of getting there.

The Strata Committee makes decisions about common property issues, by-laws, and finances. The Residents Committee directs questions and concerns from residents to the most relevant source for resolution. By working together the two committees can expedite the process for a faster solution.

On both committees is a team of dedicated residents who give up their time to attend meetings, and to represent fellow-residents on matters that need attention and/or decisions.

Who’s on the Strata Committee?

  • Me (Chairperson and Secretary)
  • Ken M (Treasurer)
  • David P (Village manager)
  • Bev H
  • Peter W
  • Wendy P

All members turn up each month to vote on issues that will impact on their neighbours and themselves, and they do the job brilliantly. The committee members are also involved in village life – they attend functions and volunteer in other capacities as well.

And the Residents Committee?

  • Peter W (Chairperson)
  • Cheryl (Secretary)
  • Wendy W
  • Alan W
  • Neville E
  • Ken M
  • Me

All members are active in the community and volunteer in many ways, because if we are making decisions for the residents of Mountain View, we need to know the residents of Mountain View.

But there is another level to management here at Mountain View, and that is the support of our Strata Manager at Body Corporate Services (BCS), Tweed Heads Branch. If we didn’t have Kellie and her team backing us, our job would be almost impossible to manage. We self-managed for a few years and trust me, we wouldn’t want to do that again.

Not happy, Jan

As mentioned earlier, there are a few people who don’t seem to have embraced village life as easily or enthusiastically as the rest of us, but they are a very small number. Perhaps they regret moving here, or have forgotten why they made that decision, or perhaps they didn’t understand the contract before signing it. But I’d like to think they love it here as much as we do – they just don’t show it. And on that note, it is worth mentioning that you buy a lifestyle when you buy into a retirement village, not necessarily an investment. Having said that, there are now a number of contracts to choose from that might ease your mind for the future, or your children’s inheritance. Pam, and/or Aveo, would be happy to explain them to you.

United we stand

The two committees are united and dedicated to serving every resident at Mountain View to the best of our ability. We started 2023 on a peaceful path and that’s how we plan to continue. Problems are dealt with through robust and constructive discussion – that’s how the Strata Committee has operated for many years, and our Residents Committee feels the same. We don’t all have the same opinion or agree on everything, and that’s healthy for any committee, but we openly and respectfully discuss all options to find the best solution.

And it is the team effort, from the top of Brookfield to the newest resident, that makes it all happen. It wouldn’t work without Julie A’s input, the dedication of our management team, or the hard work of all the volunteers at Mountain View.

Cooperation and respect are the keys to peaceful living in a retirement community.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) uses eight key action areas to define an age-friendly community, and therefore the quality of life and wellbeing of an aging population:

  • Outdoor spaces and buildings
  • Transport
  • Housing
  • Social participation
  • Respect and social inclusion
  • Civic participation and employment
  • Communication and Information
  • Community support and health services

So how does Mountain View stack up as an age-friendly community?

Mountain View has all eight areas covered. On twenty-eight acres of bushland there is an abundance of open spaces, a community garden, pool, bowling green, and soon, a bar and a gym (indoors). The village bus is available for social outings, as well as the town bus right on our doorstep. But if more specialised transport is needed, it is available.

Social activities are plentiful, and there are volunteers willing to teach new skills including art, technology, and family history. The monthly newsletter keeps everyone informed of activities, as well as letterbox drops for urgent matters. We even have our own closed Facebook page with one-hundred-and-one members (and growing…).

Bookworms are well catered for with an overstocked library – yep – our volunteer librarians often donate the overflow to other agencies, and we’ve even published our own anthology of resident’s writing.

Some residents maintain part-time employment in the wider community, but still find time to participate in village activities.

Government assisted support

There is no shortage of available services aimed at keeping us in our own home longer. Housekeeping, shopping trips, podiatry, pharmacy delivery service, and a lot more are accessed by residents in ILUs.

Buying a unit at Mountain View is an affordable option, which is probably why Pam often has people on a wait-list for an available unit to buy – units tend to sell fast these days. Perhaps our little piece of paradise is no longer a secret?

Respect and social inclusion probably get the biggest tick on the WHO list here at Mountain View. There are too many activities and events to mention here, but if there isn’t something that suits you, you can start your own. Many residents form groups of like-minded neighbours to play cards, or mahjong, or just meet for BYO at the Gazebo on Saturday night.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

But it is the mutual respect that stands out the most. Neighbours take care of each other – whether it be cooking a meal for someone who isn’t well, or driving someone to a medical appointment. There is always someone who will check in on you to make sure you are okay, and if the Admin team know you are not well – they’ll give you a call to see if there’s anything you need. A meal can be delivered daily by Jess or Sherrin, if ordered from The Lodge kitchen for a small cost. And trust me, I’ve used the service. During Covid19 lockdown in 2020, I arranged for a hot meal every day for a few weeks so I didn’t have to worry about groceries or cooking. I mean, lockdown was a busy time, right? That’s when we were baking sourdough, restoring old furniture, and learning how to make rag-quilts, so there was no time for cooking (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it…).

The time is now!

So if you are contemplating retirement, do yourself a favour and investigate an Aveo retirement village near you – or come and visit ours. We’d love to show you how good life can be when you make the decision on where you are going to spend your retirement years. If you don’t make the decision soon enough, someone else might make it for you, and it mightn’t end well.

Note: My heartfelt thanks to everyone who makes Aveo Mountain View Retirement Village the best place to live. There are hundreds more behind the scenes, including Bob the Builder, and Stewart – our favourite electrician, but know that you are all appreciated. And to every resident who has, or continues to volunteer in any capacity at Mountain View, it is you who makes the biggest difference.

Thank you!

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Maureen

Born in Sydney - retired in Mountain View Murwillumbah, after teaching Special Education for more years than I can remember in NSW and Qld. My goal is to figure out the finer points of putting together a functional website and to write blogs that people want to read. Oh, and to travel the world, and share the beauty of the beautiful place I now call home.

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