Village News

Coming from one family to another

01 March 2024

Kath at home in Dannemora Gardens

First published in NZ Herald

How Kath found a home, family, safety and...a busy social life.

This is the second in a series of sponsored stories by ZB’s Kerre Woodham in which Kerre examines life in Metlifecare villages through the eyes of residents – how they came to be there, what shaped their choice of village and their life in residence. Today: How Kath feels safe now – and has some extra money.

After raising two girls on her own, working two jobs until she was 75 and helping in the community, Kath finally has time for herself – and she’s loving every minute of it.

Kath sold her four-bedroom home and moved into Metlifecare’s Dannemora Gardens two years ago at the urging of her daughters. She says she hadn’t really thought about a retirement village and didn’t know much about them. After all, she wasn’t retired!

“It was my daughters who said, ‘Mum, you’ve worked hard all your life. It’s your time now’” Kath explains.

It helped that Kath’s older daughter works as a liaison officer in a retirement community in Australia. She knew the benefits of retirement village living so she came home and, together with Kath’s younger daughter (and Kath herself), they began visiting villages to find the perfect one. Dannemora Gardens was it.


“What got me was the family atmosphere,” Kath says. “You walked in and everyone was smiling and saying ‘hi, hi! ‘Oh, and what also got me was a big noticeboard with all the activities you could do. My daughter said ‘look, Mum! There’s something on every day.’”

And there is. You should see Kath’s diary. Monday is the knitting group. Tuesday, indoor bowls. Wednesday is Kath’s busiest day. In the morning, she joins the walking group for an hour long walk around the neighbourhood, followed by a coffee and a chat at Dannemora Gardens’ Twin Palms cafe afterwards. At 2pm it’s Bingo, which Kath absolutely loves, then at 4.30pm it’s singing.

“The singing group is fabulous. They sing all the songs from my era – it’s just great.” Thursday, it’s pétanque (which she’d never played before moving into the village but really enjoys) and Friday it’s Happy Hour. Saturday, there’s another indoor bowls game so really, Kath says, she only has Monday mornings (before knitting group) and Sundays free.

Then she has to fit in her family and her old friends plus there are excursions put on by the village.

“We’re lucky enough to have a social co-ordinator who organises all sorts of activities. She’s wonderful,” says Kath. “Art galleries, all sorts. We go to the Bruce Mason Theatre over on the Shore once a month for musical shows.

“A few months ago, 40 of us went to Alexandra Park for the night trots – we left at 4.30pm and I think we got back about 10.45pm. Oh, it was fabulous, just fabulous”. She says her old social life was generally on the weekends. It had to be fitted around work hours but now she has the freedom to do what she wants, whenever she wants.

Her time has been freed up, and so too has her capital. Once she’d sold her home and bought her apartment at Dannemora Gardens, she paid off what was left of the mortgage and found there was money left over.

Kath put some on term deposit and then her daughters encouraged her to go shopping for brand new furniture and fittings, for the first time in her life. She says it’s an enormous relief to have more certainty around her bills, with no nasty surprises stemming from things from her old life, like house maintenance. She’s also enjoying having a bit extra in her wallet.

‘When I’m out with my daughters, I say ‘It’s my shout,’ And they say ‘No, Mum!’ But it’s so lovely to be able to do it.”

Along with the financial security, Kath also appreciates the security of village living: “Being on your own, in a big house – I lived in fear sometimes. Even though my Jack Russell passed away, I kept the sign on the gate: Beware of the dog. And I kept the kennel. My daughters said, no, Mum, it’s time you were somewhere you feel safe. And here I do.”

Kath sums up her experience of Dannemora Gardens beautifully: “Coming from a big family, moving in and making another big family has just been incredible.”

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