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  • Bethan Winn

I live in a retirement village. I'm 36. And I absolutely love it.

How? I live in a strata of about 15 villas, built round a pool and a courtyard. Designed for the over 55s in the 1980s, legend has it that someone forgot to add the clause about the age of the buyers. The strata voted to leave it as is and the rest is history.

In 2015, me, my husband and my toddler moved in.

There's a mix of ages and nationalities and *mostly* everyone gets along (as long as you don't mention the cat - but that's a story for in person!).

In the past four years we've welcomed new residents and said goodbye to eight, three of those for the last time. My children have a range of beautiful surrogate grandparents to call on for a chat and biscuit.

We've had stories of child rearing in 1940s rural WA, war time Burma, the Indian army, music festivals in the 70s, growing up in wartime Britain, courting at dances, lost loves, raising huge broods and the endless holidays and hardships that are retirement and aging.

If I'm ever feeling "old", I just need to have a chat with one of the "more mature" neighbours to put things in perspective - it's like the opposite of instagram for your mental health! And I swear some of them have more energy than me some days...

We've had countless parcels brought to our door, bins brought in, friends and family enquired after, chats in the courtyard, 'Fish and chip Fridays', bananas delivered (as my cousin found out when housesitting!) and afternoon splashes by the pool.

I've no doubt that my kids being noisy are occasionally annoying, and our garden and big plastic toys can be an eyesore, but generally they seem to enjoy having us around! It's not always perfect - if you're under the weather or super tired, a strata email can induce an eye roll, but the benefits far outweigh downsides.

Why did we move here? We could have got a mortgage for a much bigger "family home", but it didn't quite sit right. We initially wanted the freedom of a smaller mortgage so we could have time off for parental leave, starting businesses, extended holidays, continuing education without the stress of a big mortgage. We've been able to do that and more, and the value that comes with living in a community was a bonus I hadn't anticipated, and will make it very hard to leave one day. The 'ad populum' fallacy springs to mind - just because many people believe you need to live a certain way, doesn't mean it's right for you.

In London, we lived next to an "off licence" so joked about outsourcing our beer refrigeration as we didn't have room in the tiny kitchen. In this house, we've outsourced the pool, massive lawn and three playgrounds close by, food storage to IGA, beer refrigeration to the local bottle shop and we still have our own little patch of earth.

It does force us to be creative and question what we buy, as there isn't space for lots of stuff. Our little backyard is big enough to swing a cat, but still has a cubby, two swings, monkey bars and rope bridge, strawberry patch, BBQ area and heaps more!

Living here has reinforced the value of community for me, and I'm proud to know my kick ass neighbours and privileged to get to spend time with them. If you saw them around town, you probably wouldn't realise just how cool they are, but they have so much to share and I learn so much from them.

To quote a beautiful neighbour who has now passed, "we live in each other's lives, but not in each other's pockets".

Right now, there's nowhere else I'd rather live.

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