Owner at Audley retirement house

Reflections on Right-sizing

Ms Anne Foster lives at Audley Chalfont Dene and has kindly shared her story below to help others who are considering their retirement living options.

My Audley years

Growing older is often not much fun: the floor gets further away; our bodies creak and leak; print becomes smaller and radio and television seem quieter; we can lose some mobility and our social circle has a tendency to shrink.

But ageing is a fact of life, and changes must be made. What is appropriate at 70 is inevitably different from the times we enjoyed in our youth. It is vital that we take note of a changed way of life.

Many people find themselves living alone in large properties after their families have left, in houses more suitable for families; they may also have huge gardens, with the accompanying high up-keep costs. For some there is the extra burden of being faced with living entirely alone and looking to a future as a singleton.

This becomes a time for serious thought and consideration.

Speaking personally, after very many years of love and laughter as part of a wonderful family, I was widowed and found myself at a completely new stage of life. Wanting to hold on to the happiness I had enjoyed, I had decisions to make, questions to answer. What must I do to make the best of my new circumstances?

Should I consider a move?

I had become a widow, living alone in a large family house with a huge garden, and at a distance from a scattered family. My thoughts turned to re-location. My friends fell into two camps: those who admired my bravery at a difficult time and those who reached the conclusion that I was crazy.

What would I miss?

Was it wise to leave a house which contained so may happy times?

How could I leave my friends?

I realised that my aim should be to keep as many friends as possible…social contacts had always been very important. Any proposed move should therefore not be at a distance which would make visits impossible.

As for the house… I will never lose those memories, they are a part of me. And another family could also enjoy happy times there.

What might I gain?

I might make new companions and enjoy new activities in fresh surroundings. I could place myself closer to support and help as I aged and find access to care facilities if they were to become necessary. A smaller property would require less maintenance. A careful choice would move me closer to my family members.

Whilst maintaining many old ties, I could see the possibility of new opportunities.

What would I like?

I made up my mind to search for a life where I could keep my independence and the freedom to live as I chose while at the same time placing myself close to help if and when it might be welcome. I had always lived in detached property, and hoped this could continue; in addition, I valued space around me.

What do I really need?

Not necessarily the same as what I would like!

My research was based in four main areas, all of which I hoped for on site:

a) Indoor living space. Did I really need the 82 cups and saucers I had collected over time? Obviously not. Likewise, my cut glass and large mahogany dining table must go. It is all only STUFF. I still valued 2 or 3 bedrooms, to accommodate friends and family visitors; I am not opposed to open-plan living, but a separate kitchen was a must.

b) Outside. I hoped for some outside garden space to grow plants; I sought a pleasant, not overlooked view in an area not too far removed from the convenience of shops and entertainment.

c) Keeping fit. Ideally, I planned for gym and pool opportunities and the possibility of sports and exercise classes. I looked out for some care facilities on site as well as local health services.

d) Company. An onsite restaurant would offer healthy eating if I chose not to cook for myself. Opportunities to socialise could be found in clubs and groups, in quizzes and coffee mornings; a library would cater for my life-long love of books; and I hoped to join craft sessions. Perhaps trips might be organised, and could offer further chances to meet my new neighbours. Quite a list of requirements! Could they be met?

What can I afford?

I quickly realised that the market offered a great variety of retirement living solutions; there is somewhere to suit everybody. Research is vital. It cannot be a good idea to spend our later years worrying about finances; we must be realistic.

The small print must be carefully read before any paper is signed. With such an enormous range of options, it is essential to discover exactly what is covered in any charges: how is any property insurance dealt with? Is the maintenance of both the inside and outside of the property covered? What about window cleaning? Are there reduced utility charges? What about discounts in the restaurant? Is any deferred charge in any way balanced by an equal rise in the value of the property?

If any reluctance is shown by the seller to answer any of your questions, look elsewhere.

It goes without saying that the proposed buyer should fully discuss all financial implications with all who might be included in inheritance provision.

Once all the above aspects have been thoroughly considered, then it is perhaps time to move.

Be sure that any decision is one that you have yourself made…do not be driven by the often unhelpful guidance of others. Take your time over this, do your research and visit any villages that appeal.

Moving will be expensive…it really does not have to be heart-breaking. A positive approach works wonders. You will find help and advice is readily available once you have made up your mind. You will remain able to enjoy a full life although in changed surroundings. Right-sizing is a positive step towards interest and contentment as we age. Life does not have to go downhill.

How has it all worked out for me?

I have no regrets; I live very happily in the Audley village of my choice. I keep fit physically by regular use of the gym, by playing mini tennis and joining Zumba classes, and by keeping my patio garden in bloom; I stay mentally alert by organising monthly quizzes; socially, I make new contacts in social gatherings and at craft sessions.

Above all else, I am still in control of the way I live my life and I have managed to maintain my independence.

I ask for nothing more.

Anne Foster Chalfont Dene Owner for over 6 years.

January, 2022

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