Retirement living. Doing it differently.

Inspired by a program on housing for the older population that appeared on an SBS Insight program, I contacted two of the participants who had talked about the retirement community they had created with four other long term friends. It’s a remarkable story.

Like many baby boomers, Judy and Michael didn’t want to live in either a retirement village or an aged care facility as they became older. Nor did two other couples they knew and with whom they had shared a friendship for over 30 years. They had enjoyed many holidays together, and with a common aversion to existing living arrangements for people as they age, they thought that they could create their own retirement community by living together for the remainder of their lives.

After a successful trial living in the same home they rented together in Sydney the group searched for land where they could build a home in which three couples could happily live until they all died.

Their beautiful home is set on small acreage about 20 minutes drive from Taree. All couples have their own living area that includes a bedroom, ensuite, office area large enough for two desks and a private balcony.  The common area consists of a kitchen, dining, and lounge area.  The pantry has dedicated individual spaces as well as shared shelves for staples such as oil, salt, and pepper.  The lounge is large and open plan with enough space for wheelchairs or walking frames if/when these are needed by any of the residents. There’s also a large deck with an outdoor table for six, and a BBQ.

It’s cold when I visit so I experience the warmth and friendliness of the indoor fire rather than the outdoor verandah and BBQ.  Separately there’s a yoga studio (my heaven) that includes a separate bedroom, living room, bathroom and small kitchen that could be used by a carer – again if/when this is needed in the future.

I gather the journey to create this alternative retirement home has been long with many challenges and self-discoveries along the road. However, it works. It seems that Judy, Michael, Heather, Rick, Eve and Daniel have discussed everything from pets to caring for each other if various health issues arise, including dementia, to the fact that the house will not be sold until the last person has died.

Their journey, including twelve lessons these innovators discovered when creating an intentional community, is detailed in the Shedders blog written by one of the residents, Heather Bolstler.

Whilst I only met Judy & Michael as Heather, Rick, Eve & Daniel were travelling, I felt privileged to meet and share time with extraordinary people. They have made a choice and created a way of living that will nourish the body, mind, and soul until death they do part. I’m impressed by their forward thinking, openness to a different idea for living the remainder of their life and willingness to take action to create the future they want to have with four other close friends who share the same desire and vision.

Could I do this? Possibly. I like the idea as an alternative to a retirement village – something I’m not attracted to either. It’s certainly innovative and I love how it demonstrates that creative thinking can generate possibilities for living as we age that don’t currently exist.

What do you think? Could you create an intentional community such as this or do you have other plans for retirement living? What do you want? How will you create it? Always curious to hear what you’re planning to do.


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6 replies
  1. Tracey
    Tracey says:

    A group of us (gourmet girls) played with the idea of buying individual units in an apartment complex. That was 20 years ago so perhaps we were ahead of the curve … I like what the Taree commune are doing, I also like the idea of people live in a community with a common area, such as a garden. For me, I want to be on a place that’s mine (no shared living space) but have good friends and neighbours nearby.

  2. Robyn Swanson
    Robyn Swanson says:

    I love this idea. It reminds me of something I saw on Judith Lucy’s TV show over a year ago – in fact, it could be the same people!

    • Catherine Rickwood
      Catherine Rickwood says:

      You’re right. They are the same people you saw on Judith Lucy’s show. I didn’t see the show, but Judy & Michael mentioned it to me. The Shedders blog is worth looking at as it details the journey.

  3. Judy Hollingworth
    Judy Hollingworth says:

    Catherine Thanks for your very nice account of what we are up in our co-housing arrangement and why. We may well be here until death do us part, if we all die in very quick succession! In our current legal agreement it states the deal continues until there are two still here. That could be any two, and relies on beneficiaries not pressing in to claim their share of the property if neither of those two are their family members. As we get closer to two-only we might find we need a different plan.

    It’s a hard thing to get right for the surviving two and beneficiaries of the deceased ones. We have asked our kids to honour our agreement and we are aware that may not hold up legally if challenged. I do hope this place is til death do us part for me – that will mean I was well enough to stay here and the practicalities and finances held together well, too. 🙂

    • Catherine Rickwood
      Catherine Rickwood says:

      Thanks for clarifying this Judy. This was a popular post so I know people are interested in learning about how to create a different future in their living arrangements as they age. Your willingness to be open about what you’ve created is an inspiration and encouragement for us all to think outside the box.


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