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Active Ageing

By Mark van Dijk

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Forget the old age homes of the past. Today’s mature lifestyle estates offer residents an active retirement with customised healthcare options.

Today’s retirement estates are very far removed from the ‘old age homes’ of the past. In modern retirement villages and estates, residents have access to a wide variety of services and a broad range of lifestyle and healthcare options – from a luxurious home or a cosy cottage to hands-on care from qualified nurses. Whether you’re in the market for a post-retirement place for yourself, or for your parents, here’s a look at the types of options you’ll find.

Independent living

Mature lifestyle estates or villages are designed to provide ease of access as well as a healthy lifestyle. They’re often located in good climates, surrounded by natural beauty (think beaches, forests, etc.) and in close proximity to transport routes, shopping centres and leisure facilities. The new Quadrant Gardens (quadrantgardens.co.za) in Cape Town’s Claremont is a fine example of this, situated next to Kingsbury Hospital and down the road from Cavendish Square. Mount Edgecombe Retirement Village (merv.co.za) is another: located within KwaZulu-Natal’s lush Kindlewood Estate, it’s close to Cornubia Mall, Gateway Theatre of Shopping and the lovely uMhlanga beaches. It’s also close to uMhlanga Hospital, and – crucially – it has its own care centre. Many mature lifestyle villages offer this sweet spot of estate living, combined with healthcare facilities that are either very nearby, or on site and on call. The thinking here is that you don’t have to travel for your healthcare; instead your healthcare comes to you.

Daily care at home

Much as you might try to live an ‘active ageing’ lifestyle, your health might reach a point where you need closer and more regular care. Cottage residents at Deansgate Retirement Village (deansgate.co.za) in Craighall Park, Johannesburg, are visited every weekday by a fully qualified nursing sister, and once a week by a doctor. This is typical of a mature lifestyle village that facilitates the shift from independence to mid-care or assisted living. The Somerset, a resort-style village in Somerset West near Cape Town, offers Call4Care home care, which lets residents activate two-way communication with a caregiver simply by pushing a red button in their home. The Call4Care system operates with ER24, which means it’s able to provide around-the-clock ER24 medical emergency service if needed – and Mediclinic Vergelegen is located barely a kilometre away.

Frail care … but only after active ageing

Many retirement estates are now moving away from frail care centres to home-based nursing, recognising the changing needs of today’s active and independent retirees. Modern medical care means that (generally speaking, and provided they’ve taken care of themselves) today’s 80-year-olds are stronger, fitter and healthier than the octogenarians of generations past. So while a retirement village like Eastlands Mature Lifestyle Estate in Benoni North, for example, does have a 16-bed frail care centre that provides 24-hour frail care, its emphasis is on encouraging active ageing. The estate’s management understands how today’s over-50s are growing old, and as a result have prioritised physical activity at the village’s lifestyle centre for long-term health and wellness.

Community living

Loneliness is a killer. That was one of the key insights gleaned from a landmark 2010 Harvard study, which found that people who kept warm relationships lived longer and happier lives – with study author Professor Robert Waldinger saying: ‘Loneliness is as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.’ Guided by that thinking, more and more retirement estates are realising how important it is for residents to have a healthy, active social life – and how important it is to keep busy! Evergreen Lifestyle (evergreenlifestyle.co.za) has a nationwide portfolio of villages, each of which has a state-of-the-art lifestyle centre. With their open-plan lounges, libraries, games rooms and so on, these centres provide a central hub for community gatherings – and for the various clubs, societies and hobby groups that meet more regularly.

Extra focus on emotional wellness

Groenkloof Glen Retirement Village (groenkloof.net) has access to the communal facilities of Groenkloof George Retirement Village, which include designated areas for pottery and home industries. Here, residents can stay busy and productive, which gives them a sense of purpose and usefulness. That’s important for people at any age – and it’s absolutely vital to the elderly. Groenkloof offers retirement communities across the Garden Route, from George to Great Brak River, all of which follow a holistic care approach that considers the residents’ overall wellbeing – including physical, spiritual and emotional health. A care manager is appointed to provide emotional counselling and guidance for residents and their families as retirement turns (as it inevitably does) to old age.

Specialised care for dementia

Some retirement villages or estates – like Randjes Estate (randjesestate.co.za) in Johannesburg’s Highlands North – are able to offer Memory Care to residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Others do, but only to a point. Groenkloof, while being a member of Alzheimer’s South Africa and while offering high-care facilities for residents with dementia, is one of many estates that cannot support residents living with advanced Alzheimer’s. Instead they assist those residents in being transferred to highly specialised villages, like Jura Care Village (juracare.co.za) in George. The more research is done into neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, the more researchers realise how much modern science does not know about them. Increasingly, mature living estates are accepting their limitations in this regard, and are leaving this niche care to the specialists.

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