"We're so thankful we planned early"
"IF YOU leave it too late, the decision gets made for you."
That's the message from Gordon Crawford when asked about his decision to move into retirement living earlier than friends and family advised.
But with more and more older Australians making the move each year, going into a retirement village has become more a question of "when" than "if" for most.
About 200,000 Australians aged 65 and over now reside in retirement villages, and in NSW occupancy rates still average 91 per cent even with a steady stream of new and expanded villages coming on the market.
The strong demand and limited availability for homes, villas and apartments is a powerful driver of this decision but according to Mr Crawford, who resides at Tarragal Glen Retirement Village on the Central Coast, so too is the growing recognition of retirement villages being an attractive lifestyle choice and providing better outcomes for older Australians.
"We were told by friends and family we were too fit and too well to go into retirement living", Mr Crawford said.
"And we were planning to wait until we were closer to 80, but when we saw the villas and facilities and quality of life that would be available to us, we looked at each other and said 'why wait?'."
Mr Crawford and his wife, Sue Kemp, have been living at Tarragal Glen for over two years and although he said the move was at times physically and emotionally demanding, the couple have no regrets.
"We're so thankful we planned ahead and made the move while we're fit and well. It's allowed us to make a lifestyle choice and enjoy what's on offer rather than having a decision forced on us because we couldn't cope anymore.
"Some people look at retirement village living and downsizing as though you're giving up something, but for us we really feel like it's given us a better life than we had before."
Indeed, research from around the world provides backing for this feeling. A study from Trinity College Dublin concluded that many of the opportunities found in quality retirement living, like social support and physical exercise, are strongly associated with reduced anxiety and depression.
Another study from the University of Michigan found that socialising regularly was associated with better physical health and a longer lifespan.
"After two years in the village we have a new circle of friends and a very full life both inside and outside of the village," Mr Crawford said.
"I really encourage anyone considering their options to do as we did, and really make the most of their retirement years."
RetireAustralia, a leading provider of retirement villages, has recently re-published its RetireReady Guide to help older Australians plan ahead and know what to expect in retirement village living.