The Diary of a Man Who Left His House For a ‘Village’
To be honest, the idea of moving to a retirement community did not simply happen overnight. It was almost like a gradual series of little fortuitous events that nudged me in that direction. Until it dawned on me that moving would make my life less complicated and, most importantly really, I’d be less lonely. You see, I lost my wife, Tessa, over a year ago and I had been determined to remain in the three-bedroom family home in Romsey that we had loved and lived in for almost 40 years. We’d raised our two children there and it was filled with so many happy memories, that the thought of leaving made me feel terribly sad. I wanted to keep it going as a place for my children and grandchildren to come and visit. But as they live about 40-minutes away in Basingstoke, they couldn’t come and visit as often as they’d have liked. Because I am still active and healthy, the thought of a retirement community didn’t occur to me, as I currently don’t need any physical care and I love taking my car out and visiting my good friends. But I don’t see as much of my friends as I’d like to – and I love nothing more than a game of bowls at the Bowls Club with them. In fact, it was my love of bowling that was the catalyst to me discovering Grove Place …
I can remember it clearly as I was already feeling a little down as my son and daughter-in-law had left for Basingstoke, having been down for the weekend with my two grandchildren. I always love having them to stay – the house is filled with laughter again. But I knew I wouldn’t see them for a while as they were off on holiday, and my son also travels a lot for work. They are young and have busy lives and it would have been several weeks before I next saw them. There was always quite a bit of clearing up to do after those visits, and I remember thinking that I had to get on with some housework. But the house was three storeys high, and keeping on top of all the dusting, bed sheet changing, and bathroom scrubbing was not only daunting but onerous. To be honest, I’d completely lost interest in it all. It’s hard when you’re on your own.
The next morning, to keep myself occupied in a positive way, I thought I’d enjoy the lovely large garden and have a go at planting some vegetable seeds I’d just purchased. But I became distracted by the unruly lawn which I’d noticed really needed a good mow. The recent rain had caused the grass to shoot up and it took me several exhausting hours to tackle it all with the lawnmower. You know what? I never even got around to planting those seeds as all my energy had been sapped by cutting the lawn. What had been a passionate hobby of mine was becoming an exhausting chore. So, I decided instead to head over to the Bowls Club to catch up with a few friends as I am a member there. It wasn’t long before we began discussing how little we were seeing our families. It was at that point; I’d spotted a flyer for Grove Place Retirement Village out of the corner of my eye. I recognized the name as it was local to me in Hampshire. It was a serendipitous moment as I tucked it into my pocket and contemplated the prospect of a visit. Spurred on by another lonely evening, rattling around in my empty house, I plucked up the courage the next morning to give the team at Grove Place a call. I shouldn’t have worried as the loveliest lady called Wendy answered the phone and really took her time to chat and get to know me in a friendly and relaxed way that immediately put me at ease. Wendy invited me to visit at my convenience but, as there was an upcoming open home day that week, I reserved a place to attend.
As I pulled up to Grove Place and drove through the entrance, I was bowled over by the beautiful scenery, and even more stunned by the wonderful Elizabethan Manor House at the heart of it all. It was reassuring to see there was also on-site parking – so convenient. A friendly concierge welcomed me in and introduced me to Wendy who immediately made me feel comfortable. Throughout the tour, I kept having to remind myself that I was looking around a retirement community, not a five-star hotel! There was the fantastic pool and gym, the traditionally paneled billiards room, wonderful restaurant, and a coffee lounge full of chatter and laughter. Everyone I saw looked busily content – there was such a sense of community – and I even spotted an old chum from the Bowls Club! They kindly asked me to join a croquet match that the team were laying on for the residents that evening, which I reluctantly agreed to. You will never guess what happened then … despite never picking up a mallet in my life, I won the main prize which was a lunch at Grove Place at any time of my choosing. I really was having the most marvelous day! Wendy topped the day off by showing me some of the apartments and bungalows that were for sale – I was so impressed by how clean and contemporary they felt, many with balconies and views over the stunning grounds. After my lawn mowing debacle, I was so relieved to hear that there’s a full team on hand to upkeep the grounds!
My buoyant mood from my wonderful day was soon deflated when I picked up my post from the mat on my return home. My latest power bill had gone up by 54% and, according to the news, is likely to increase again in October. It felt such a huge amount for a single person to take on. I couldn’t face going to the supermarket to get my groceries, so I sat in front of the telly with a can of baked beans on toast. I sat there reflecting on the busy and positive day I had enjoyed at the Grove Place open day – I had met so many like-minded souls and I’d loved that 27-acre setting too. I could see myself there! But the thought of selling the house and sorting out all my possessions made me feel anxious. My son called me, and I relayed to him the success of the day, but also how worried I was at the thought of getting rid of my possessions and memories and that moving would be a huge undertaking. He was very reassuring and gently suggested that I ‘slept on it’ and, at the very least, took up the invitation prize for lunch!
So, I booked myself in for lunch and was hugely impressed by the excellent food in the chef-led restaurant and was impressed too by how reasonable the prices were. I do enjoy my food, and miss the lovely meals that Tessa cooked. During lunch, a nice man, Richard, the General Manager, introduced himself to me and informed me that there’s even a room service option where meals can be delivered to your apartment. Once again, I had to pinch myself to remind myself, I was not in a five-star hotel. The atmosphere in there was buzzing – everyone I met seemed to be having a lovely time. As was I! After lunch, I decided to view one of their one-bedroom bungalows and was struck by how much easier my life would be without all those extra rooms and stairs and I loved the small patio where I could continue my love of gardening without the pressure and hard work of the lawn mower! I then spent time talking through the financial terms of buying at Grove Place – as a retired accountant I do still have an eye for financial detail and facts. What I was most pleased to discover was that service charges are fixed for my tenure – allowing me to budget for the years ahead. And that was it! My decision was made. It was like it was meant to be and I put an offer on that lovely bungalow, then and there – which I was overjoyed to hear later had been accepted.
Despite all my initial fears and reservations, the sale of our family home went as smoothly as I could have wished for. I kept everything that I wanted to take with me to Grove Place and I passed other bits and pieces to my family. It was a very cathartic experience in the end. It’s hard to believe that it was a mere four months from that wonderful first viewing to embarking on a new, positive chapter of my life. That first week gave me an immediate feeling that I’d made the right decision as I was made to feel so welcome. Nicolae, the Community Operations Manager was there to greet me and presented me with a wonderful welcome basket from the whole team at Grove Place. It was such a kind and thoughtful gesture. I was delighted as I have a sweet tooth and it was filled with all sorts of treats, as well as biscuits and tea. And what could be more heart-warming than a vase of beautiful flowers that were waiting in my new apartment for me. It wasn’t just the staff who went above and beyond in helping me settle in. So many of the other residents made me feel at home – and one kind lady even dropped in a homemade cottage pie – it gave me such a reassuring sense of good old fashioned ‘community’ spirit. Colin, who I understand has worked at Grove Place for many years as part of the management team, also came over to explain how everything in my new apartment worked – he even connected my TV.
I soon realized that you don’t need to live in a big house for your grandchildren to visit. There were more grounds to explore than ever and they even discovered a pond and bug house as well as swimming in the indoor pool. What a treat for them! What’s more, the facilities are purely for the exclusive use of residents and their guests which means they are never overcrowded. I potted up some geraniums on the patio on the advice from Robin, the head gardener, as it’s a lovely suntrap for them. And not a blade of grass to mow either…! My new neighbour, Jim, joined me for a relaxing G&T that evening, and we realized we had both grown up in nearby Romsey so had much in common to chat about.
I soon settled into the swing of life at Grove Place and, after a couple of weeks, I dipped my toe into the social scene by booking myself onto a trip to the local vineyard, enrolling myself in a snooker league, joining the aqua fit classes and put my name down for the choir! I even invited some new friends over for dinner my apartment and am planning to host my 75th birthday party in the restaurant. I’m on one of the social committees! I didn’t think I was a sociable person until I moved here. It’s great because you walk out the door and everything’s there. There’s always something to do – someone’s birthday celebration, a themed meal, or a trip out. You can be as involved as you want to at Grove Place. My life is so busy and full, and I am loving every minute of my new life here and even found myself saying as much when I spotted lovely Wendy showing around a potential resident when I was on my way to the library. I told her, hand on heart, “This is the best move I ever made – it has given me a whole new lease of life!”
Note: Keith Simpson is a fictional character, but his story is based on genuine residents’ experiences and feedback as told to the Grove Place team. If you’re seeking more from the next chapter in your life and would like to find out more about our offering and how we can enhance the ‘every day’ please call T. 0800 009 6950. For those who are unable to visit in person, we are also able to offer virtual tours of our communities at your convenience.
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