Inside an independent retirement village

New Zealand has many retirement villages and their number is growing rapidly. No surprise there, because the older population is also increasing. Some are excellent. Some are OK. Some are worrying. And some are unique. One such is Parkwood Retirement Village in Waikanae.

Point of difference: this retirement village is run by an independent not-for-profit trust. No shareholders. All differences and special benefits are made possible by this fact. I visit Parkwood quite often and it takes my breath away every time. It’s not that I want to move there β€” and if I did, there’s a 4–7 year waiting list. And it’s not that anyone’s paying me to sing its praises. Which I will do with a few photos. Facts, history, facilities? Find them on the Parkwood website.

Parkwood is a good name, for it has both tailored parks and wild woods.

Every home in this independent retirement village is different

Houses were built in batches over a long period of time. Now, after many years and multiple owners, each home has a special personality.

A small, neat cottage with a pretty cottage garden in front. Two other houses adjoin a small lawn.
Houses in the retirement village are all different. Other houses are close but not too close.

The huge property contains native forest and wetlands

This aspect of Parkwood retirement village appeals to me enormously. Though much of the land was drained to enable building, enough native forest and wetlands were retained for some beautiful walks.

A still pond with lush New Zealand native forest reflected in the water.
Some of the wonderful wetlands in the retirement village land
A tui perched in a large native tree. Blue sky shows beyond the leaves and branches.
Bird life abounds in the native forest on Parkwood land
Old puriri trees  with large gnarled trunks, beside a lawn and a house.
A stand of very old puriri trees close to homes in the retirement village
A fenced-off allotment growing broccoli, leeks, herbs, broad beans, rhubarb and other vegetables.
Need more space for gardening? Residents can choose to have an allotment.
A wall inside a community room. A work of art with 18 small embroidered panels linked with a chain. Beside it a clock, hand wash dispenser, paper towel dispenser. Also seen: a laundry tub and cupboard.
Parkwood independent retirement village offers both bread and roses

Even this splendid retirement village lacks children

Despite an explosive increase in retirement villages, only a minority of old people in New Zealand live in one. A retirement village next door to a school or kindergarten or university or sports field might appeal to me. Because for me, there’s one big and necessary thing missing: the sound of children and other young people. That’s seen as an advantage by many seniors. No squealing, yelling, singing or drumming. No big rowdy families moving in next door. But young people bring life, challenges, joy, and a rush of adrenaline.

Other countries have some fantastic models for integrating old and young generations. But do they exist in New Zealand? If you know, do tell!

13 thoughts on “Inside an independent retirement village

  1. granny1947 says:

    Wow. That place looks fantastic.

  2. I would not have thought about a lack of children. You are sharp!!

  3. cedar51 says:

    interesting – somehow I wouldn’t consider who would be in the neighbouring property – be M-F or 24/7.

    I remember our first lockdown, I know there are young children in immediate housing and felt I would hear them 24/7 but then someone said “children are tethered to their _ear buds_ and indeed they were” rather I heard “hammers and saws as adults starting doing things” – the guy next door built a shed, his work ethic drove me almost to drink – 7am start… whereas the guy in the adjacent flat went off to (essential worker) work M-F leaving at 6am each day and continues to do that now….

    If I want interaction with crowds or noise I go out and about…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, while we are able to get out and about, it’s easy to find a place with a buzz.

  4. judibwriting says:

    Reminds me of my retirement community here in the States only we don’t have unique housing but we do have an early childhood learning center right in our main building! definitely a plus when Covid restrictions have loosened up- since my area of independent living also shares hallways with skilled nursing individuals, we have to follow strict protocols the rest of the independent living community here does not. It does however have a lovely campus with eight ponds, and a thriving resident run lifestyle with interests sponsored and run by the amazing retirees that live here. We are within minutes of Oberlin College which has a well known Music Conservatory- lots of concerts and art shows and writing groups and lectures- I am soooo grateful I ended up here. As much as I wish I could have gone on living on my own, since I could not, there are positive options for others like myself if you look carefully.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Your retirement community sounds like a dream. That word “community” is well deserved. As you say, what luck! By now, the old model of peace and safety is giving way to experiments in community engagement worldwide. Location matters πŸ™‚

  5. Live Later Life Well is a great concept used by MHA in the UK, and there are many and varied ways they do their best to achieve that. This includes visits by schoolchildren, creches held in the homes and housing complexes, adopting a granny/granddad schemes, musical and theatre performances and music therapy, therapy animal visits, living dolls etc. I agree that interaction with younger people is a very good thing, even if it is just being able to hear them at play, from a distance! We, of course Rachel, have the ability to switch off our hearing aids should it become too much of a good thing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      We do! Tomorrow I’m going to a symposium on dementia and will have the hearing aids turned on: hoping to hear more of such schemes in action here. I’m going with a friend who is a music therapist πŸ™‚

  6. The more people who learn about dementia the better. It is very much misunderstood, and so many living with dementia do not receive appropriate support and care.

  7. judithhb says:

    I have many friends who live in Parkwood and in fact I had a small involvement in the management of it in the past. I agree it’s probably the best retirement village, particularly compared with some of the others in the area which don’t have many of the growing plants, the trees and the wetlands.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      By the way, this morning “Anonymous” is me. When WordPress has “an unexpected error” we take turns being Anonymous. This is becoming not so unexpected. On some days, it’s a salutary reminder of my place in the world:)

  8. Ally Bean says:

    What a beautiful place. It looks inviting and unique. Nothing like that around here.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Retirement villages are such a new phenomenon that we can watch in wonder as they evolve…

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