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Photograph Kate and Miranda Harcourt at their home in Melrose. Thursday 3 April, 2014.What do you look for when plan­ning a hol­i­day? Great reviews from fel­low hol­i­day­makers? Sun-kissed beaches? Deli­cious home-cooked food? Do you take the self-cater­ing, half-board or all-inclus­ive option?

Now ima­gine if the pro­spect of this ‘hol­i­day’ was not just for a fort­night but for the fore­see­able future: 20 years or even more. Would your require­ments stay the same?

Plan­ning for the future, and in par­tic­u­lar liv­ing arrange­ments, in retire­ment is a chal­lenge facing thou­sands of New Zeal­anders every year. Wad­ing through the paper­work, cal­cu­lat­ing fin­ances and nego­ti­at­ing the com­plex land­scape of the future to dis­cov­er what is best for you can be tir­ing and confusing.

Age Con­cern has been sup­port­ing the seni­or com­munity in Wel­ling­ton for more than 60 years, focus­ing on issues such as hard­ship and health care. Robert Ross, act­ing chief exec­ut­ive for Age Con­cern New Zea­l­and, says, “Our vis­ion is that all older people are val­ued and live in an inclus­ive soci­ety. Unfor­tu­nately, New Zea­l­and is not there yet. The key chal­lenges that older people are cur­rently facing are eld­er abuse and neg­lect, social isol­a­tion and loneli­ness, meet­ing the cost of healthy liv­ing, find­ing afford­able age-friendly hous­ing and receiv­ing care that is delivered with dig­nity and respect.”

In this guide you will dis­cov­er some of the options avail­able for you or a loved one, in addi­tion to first-hand exper­i­ence and advice from seni­ors themselves.

Let’s make a list

So, you’re plan­ning your hol­i­day — you know what you like and you know you want:

  • A pool (to allow you to fin­ish that book you star­ted a year ago)
  • A 24-hour bar (to allow you to have an illi­cit mid­night beverage)
  • Shops and res­taur­ants with­in walk­ing dis­tance (to sample the loc­al cuisine and spend a week away from the kitchen)
  • A bevvy of inter­est­ing activ­it­ies (to allow you to at least con­sider base jump­ing or zip-lining)

But what would you want in the future? What means a lot to you? Age Con­cern recom­mends mak­ing a list of what you would like nearby, now and in the future:

  • Family/whānau and friends
  • Neigh­bours
  • Ser­vices and facil­it­ies like shops, the lib­rary, your doctor
  • Places and activ­it­ies that are spe­cial to you: marae, church, gym, swim­ming pool, park, beach, bus, bridge club, sew­ing or book group
  • Travel — bus stop or train (you may decide to stop driving)
  • Mobil­ity and access­ib­il­ity — good foot­paths and access for easy walk­ing or a mobil­ity scooter
  • A garden or a veget­able patch — your own or a com­munity effort


Age Con­cern also recom­mends tak­ing a look at your cur­rent sur­round­ings and being real­ist­ic about upkeep, main­ten­ance and access­ib­il­ity as you get older. Mak­ing a list of pros and cons can also be bene­fi­cial if you’re inde­cis­ive — take time to weigh things up practically.


What should you con­sider when mak­ing this decision?

What cap­it­al do I have?
How much will I have for the future?
How much is alloc­ated from the government?
How do I access this?
Am I in good health?
Do I want pro­vi­sions set aside should some­thing happen?
Am I close to my family?
Will they still be close by in the future?

Let’s look through the options

Retirement villages

aaa-1If you want to be part of the com­munity and have an act­ive life­style, a retire­ment vil­lage might be the option for you,” muses Bill Atkin­son, aged 86 and chair of the Grey Power Fed­er­a­tion Retire­ment Vil­lages Nation­al Advis­ory Group. A retire­ment vil­lage is a great option for people look­ing to become part of a com­munity and reap the bene­fits of a secure environment.

Bill has been an act­ive mem­ber of Grey Power for 19 years and lives in a retire­ment vil­lage in Auck­land, where he and his wife Christine decided to move 14 years ago. He says: “Liv­ing in a retire­ment vil­lage has a great many bene­fits if you want to remain inde­pend­ent, yet have the peace of mind that comes from a vil­lage of like-minded people and the added bene­fits of a safe and secure set­ting. How­ever, there are always a lot of import­ant facts to con­sider when mak­ing this decision and most of the time it is around plan­ning and finances.”

Bill con­cludes that his and Christine’s for­ward plan­ning has afforded them the lux­ury of being one of the young­est couples with­in their retire­ment vil­lage. “Some­times you can leave it too late and have neither the energy nor resources to live some­where that ticks all the boxes. Plan­ning is the key.”

Retire­ment vil­lages come in vari­ous shapes and sizes. More often than not, you will buy a licence to occupy (which give you the right to live with­in the vil­lage but no own­er­ship of any land or build­ings). Essen­tially, when enter­ing a vil­lage you’re pur­chas­ing the life­style, not invest­ing in the bricks and mortar.

The most import­ant things I stress when offer­ing advice on vil­lage retire­ment is, under­stand that there is no cap­it­al growth,” says Bill. “There is a weekly fee for the vil­lage and be smart with your sav­ings. Liv­ing here has been great for us we are glad we made this choice.”

Addi­tion­al bene­fits of liv­ing in a retire­ment vil­lage set­ting include extra-cur­ricular activ­it­ies that ensure you stay fit and healthy in addi­tion to hav­ing fun and mak­ing friends. At Ryman Retire­ment Vil­lages, which have more than 26 sites and 7,000 res­id­ents, the ‘vil­la­gers’ have the oppor­tun­ity to take part in the Triple A (Age­less, Act­ive, Aware) pro­gramme, cur­rently being flexed by more than 2,500 men and women of all ages. Pro­gramme co-ordin­at­or Nicki Brown based the plan on a study involving older par­ti­cipants. She says, “The truth is that you’re nev­er too old to exer­cise — you’ve just got to choose the right way to do it.”



  • You pay upfront for a licence to occupy your unit, a per­cent­age of which (up to 30 per­cent) is deduc­ted imme­di­ately and is non-refundable.
  • Retire­ment vil­lage units are not affected by hous­ing mar­ket trends and values
  • You will be required to pay weekly fees for the run­ning costs of the village
  • Always check the occu­pa­tion right agree­ment or seek advice from someone who is spe­cial­ised in this area (not all law­yers are)
  • Read the Code of Resident’s Rights and retire­ment vil­lages Code of Prac­tice 2008 as well ( The Code of Prac­tice 2008 sets out the rights and oblig­a­tions of vil­lage oper­at­ors and residents
  • Retire­ment vil­lages also offer a vari­ety of pack­ages (sim­il­ar to hol­i­days): inde­pend­ent liv­ing, sup­por­ted inde­pend­ence and full care

THUMPS UP: Secur­ity and safety with­in the vil­lage; mini-bus or trans­port on site; com­munity spir­it and days out offered; main­ten­ance is handled; choice of liv­ing options; pri­vacy of your own home (great for couples)

THUMBS DOWN: a large upfront out­lay (in the region of $200,000); 30 per­cent of out­lay is deduc­ted straight away and is non-refund­able, so if you move, your cap­it­al is reduced; weekly fee on top of the ini­tial costs


Staying put


If your house is your castle and your garden is para­dise, the thought of upping sticks can be a daunt­ing pro­spect and may cause more harm than good. Stay­ing put is usu­ally best for couples or indi­vidu­als in rel­at­ively good health with fam­ily and friends nearby.

Susan and Les Meek have lived in their King­ston house for more than 38 years and have no inten­tion of leav­ing any time soon. The couple, who have been mar­ried 42 years, have six chil­dren and two grand­chil­dren who also live in Wel­ling­ton with their parents.

The Meeks want to con­tin­ue liv­ing with their chick­ens and ancient dog in the home and garden they have built over the years. Susan, 62, says, “The main thing is to remain busy and act­ive; I cer­tainly want to con­tin­ue teach­ing and being an act­ive par­ti­cipant with­in the community.”

She also says that a retire­ment vil­lage would be their last option. “That is not some­thing we are inter­ested in and is the last thing we would want. Stay­ing in our own home, near our fam­ily and friends, is the most import­ant part of our lives.”




  • Can fam­ily members/neighbours/community pro­jects help with garden or maintenance?
  • Can you share your home to help with house­hold expenses?
  • Are you happy for the house to be adap­ted? A new shower or bath space, hand­rails and mov­ing a bed­room to the ground floor may all be bene­fi­cial for the future

THUMBS UP: Friends, fam­ily and estab­lished com­munity remains; famil­i­ar with sur­round­ings; min­im­al out­go­ings if mort­gage-free; no stress of moving
THUMBS DOWN: Home will prob­ably need to be modified/adapted for mobil­ity; more upkeep/maintenance as you get older



Shared accommodation/renting

Ryman DIRV Aug 2013 20

Shar­ing or rent­ing is always an option, no mat­ter what your age. Tap­ping into social media via plat­forms like Face­book and sites like Trade Me, have made the scope for find­ing a new place to live wider than ever.

Abbey­field is one of the pion­eers in this area, offer­ing an altern­at­ive way of liv­ing in your twi­light (or sun­rise, depend­ing on your per­spect­ive) years. If you prefer a more integ­rated approach, Abbey­field is great for people aged 55+ who want a ‘fam­ily’ type atmo­sphere, com­plete with com­mun­al din­ing and liv­ing — with the excep­tion of a cook, who sources and pre­pares meals twice daily. Res­id­ents (typ­ic­ally up to 14 retir­ees) over­see import­ant decisions with­in the house, even down to who rents along­side them.

A new­bie to the rent­al mar­ket, Pamela Lun­don, 58, has been liv­ing in Aus­tralia for the past ten years and has returned to Wel­ling­ton to be near­er her fam­ily. She says, “Liv­ing on your own allows you to remain inde­pend­ent and con­tin­ue liv­ing life at a pace you choose. I am lucky that I am fairly mobile and have two sons who help with things like car main­ten­ance or repairs around the home.”




  • Rent­ing can be great if you’re inde­pend­ent and like your own com­pany, not too good if you’re prone to feel­ing lonely or isol­ated. Shared accom­mod­a­tion may be a bet­ter option if you want a lively space — but remem­ber, it is shared; being respect­ful, and patient is important.

THUMBS UP: Great for singletons or friends who want to share togeth­er, or for those on a budget; fam­ily-style inclus­ive approach to living

THUMBS DOWN: Not suit­able for those who require care or have mobil­ity issues; could poten­tially have a lack of pri­vacy; no invest­ment or return



Living with family

Photograph Kate and Miranda Harcourt at their home in Melrose. Thursday 3 April, 2014.

Act­or and dir­ect­or Mir­anda Har­court says that a “com­mon fam­ily cul­ture” is the glue that binds her fam­ily unit togeth­er, weav­ing the lives of her hus­band, chil­dren and moth­er, theatre legend Dame Kate Har­court, into one unique tapestry in Melrose.

It was a really nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion from Kate liv­ing in a large space by her­self after my fath­er [Peter] had died, and decid­ing that we would con­sider liv­ing togeth­er after the birth of my son Peter 15 years ago,” Har­court relates.

We are a very close-knit fam­ily and spend a great deal of time togeth­er; fin­an­cially it made sense and we agreed it would be great to live together.”

Mir­anda explains that Dame Kate, 86, has a keen eye for real estate and was look­ing around when she found a house that she loved and would meet the needs of both parties. “We con­ver­ted two gar­ages at the base of the house with the help of an archi­tect, and it was perfect.”

Almost 15 years on, the fam­ily lives in what Mir­anda describes as a com­mune: a home with like-minded indi­vidu­als who speak the same lan­guage — the lan­guage of the cre­at­ive arts. “Peter flats with Kate and she and Thomas­in prac­tise the piano togeth­er; it works wonderfully.”

The idyll­ic life­style has been cap­tured even more so by an Eng­lish coun­try-garden, cul­tiv­ated and tendered to by a green-fingered Dame Kate. Dame Kate agrees enthu­si­ast­ic­ally, “I am nev­er lonely or bored, and I am with my fam­ily yet have retained my inde­pend­ence. The import­ance of liv­ing like this is the rela­tion­ship with your fam­ily. You need to listen and talk to each oth­er, and the key is tol­er­ance on both sides.”



  • The needs and expect­a­tions of every fam­ily mem­ber should be considered
  • What sup­port net­work is available?
  • Will the eld­erly fam­ily mem­ber live in an annexe or in a room with­in the house?
  • How will the eld­erly fam­ily mem­ber integ­rate with young­er people/children?


THUMBS UP: Great envir­on­ment and fam­ily atmo­sphere; shares on costs and liv­ing expenses; safe and secure
THUMBS DOWN: Liv­ing with fam­ily can risk lack of pri­vacy; suits like-minded members


Resources — for sup­port and information: — home and hous­ing information — learn more about technology — the back­bone of the seni­or community — com­munity and advice — New Zea­l­and Aged Care Association


Quick facts:

  • Home own­er­ship is highest for the 70–74 age group — 77.5 per­cent own their home (source: Stat­ist­ics New Zealand)
  • From 1950 to 2010, the over-65 pop­u­la­tion has grown from 9 per­cent to 13 percent
  • Retire­ment age pop­u­la­tion in Wellington*:

55–59 = 27,555

60–64 = 24,369

65–69 = 20,262

70–74 = 15,294

75–79 = 10,800

80–84 = 8,382

85–89 =5,007

90–94 = 2,007

95–99 = 456

100+ = 60

*Source: 2013 Census



Katie Byrne

Katie is a journalist fro the UK currently exploring Wellington after ten years working in the media in London. She is especially enjoying the craft beers, wine, fashion and arts scene in the capital but missing her beloved Chelsea FC.

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