What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘retirement village’? For years, retirement villages have been synonymous with quiet, grey concrete gardens, where individuals stayed in relative isolation from one another and the outside world, at least in my mind. The reality of retirement villages sings of a different truth — and there is no better example than Highgrove Village.
I hadn’t visited a retirement village or rest home for years. My hazy memories of visiting family were limited to embroidered cushions, kind faces, and my baby sister loudly insisting that she wanted to go home. The lasting impression of these visits is that they were not lively locations.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit Highgrove Retirement Village and speak to some of the residents. What I walked into was a far cry from the childhood construction of village living. Where I expected medical sterility, I was welcomed by warmth and wide windows.
Then there were the residents. It was a privilege to meet such a group of people who’s excitement for life outstripped my expectation ten-fold. Perhaps by the fault of my own naivety, but the tale of retirees is typically painted with a single brush. We are told that they are content to spend their days knitting while watching Jeopardy. This is most certainly not the case with the residents I spoke with.
The chatterbox, the globe trotter, the avid golfer, the introverted match, the petanque champ, and I, a Gen Z granddaughter, brought together by chance and a box of cupcakes. I was there to learn about the village, but I walked away with far more. Tips and tricks for travelling abroad, the secrets to finding love, and how I was completely wrong about retirement villages.
While yes, they do indulge in nightly The Chase viewings, their lives did not end with employment. They travel, dance, cause mayhem with friends, and hold tight to their zest for life. Residents at Highgrove spend their days out of the armchair, doing the things they love. One tells me of their garden, another of their golfing achievements that resulted in a 3 am walk home. Each one was armed with stories of their escapades, and plans for future thrills.
In Highgrove, they found the flexibility to travel without fear for the security of their homes, the freedom to test out new hobbies, but most importantly, they found a community with each other. Together, they joked, teased and gossiped. It was clear to see that they felt the words they said, they are ‘a family’.
This village is the accumulation of different lives, different paths, that led them here. Retirement certainly hasn’t stopped them. They continue to live with love, friendship and zeal. Retirement Villages are too easily defined by their facilities, their structures and their flashy offerings. They are far more than this, their essence is crafted by those that live there. The true face of Highgrove is a community bursting with life, and people eager to include you into their story.