There were cakes, slices and cups of tea as far as the eye could see at Bendigo Domain Village recently, when residents and their extended community gathered for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea (running throughout May and June this year).
The event was indicative of the many activities hosted by the retirement village, situated in Junortoun and operated by Country Club Villages.
Choosing to downsize your property in life post-work is clearly a popular decision, perhaps only set to rise in coming years as Australia faces an increasingly ageing population. Indeed, when managers Peter and Chris Collier started working at Bendigo Domain Village, the picturesque grounds were home to 35 residents. Now, there are 252 people living there, in 158 occupied villas, complete with mod cons you don’t often find in many new homes.
Once complete, Bendigo Domain Village will house a total of 207 villas and 28 apartments.
Most residents are aged in their 60s and early 70s, with a dozen residents in their 80s and three in their 90s. They are mostly local folk, or have moved from nearby farming regions and towns such as Cohuna, Echuca, Castlemaine and Kyneton. Others have relocated from Melbourne, perhaps because similar city options are substantially more expensive, but especially if their immediate family live in Bendigo. The new Bendigo Hospital Project is also a strong drawcard.
Chris says while health issues are sometimes the reason people downsize to a retirement village, it is most often because they are unable to keep maintaining their large garden.
The other major issue, Chris notes, is loneliness. “Gated communities are increasing in numbers, particularly as people are left on their own,” she says, referring to when a spouse or partner passes away.
Fortunately, there is plenty of company to be found at places such as Bendigo Domain Village, with pets allowed (its residents predominantly have dogs, with a few cats patrolling the place) and numerous weekly activities where you can meet and greet the neighbours – on Monday there’s bingo, on Tuesdays it’s mahjong, or if you prefer card games, there’s 500 on Wednesdays.
Then there’s outdoor bowls, a snooker competition, a craft group, morning melodies, and a village bus that transports residents to the regular pub lunch.
Facilities include a theatre, library, hairdressing salon and GP consulting room. Chris notes that while there is no permanent doctor on-site, each villa is fitted with a Safety Link personal response unit.
“It’s independent living that provides you with a community as well,” Chris says. “It’s an investment in your lifestyle, your facilities and your community.”