#37: Demolition of a Retirement Village: Resident Impact

Season #3

Demolition of a Retirement Village: Resident Impact

A beautiful retirement village I first visited over a decade ago is going through a significant change. The site is being redeveloped, with the existing single storey villas being knocked down and replaced with high rise apartments.

Change is inevitable, nothing is forever. And when change occurs, we all have different coping styles that we may turn to in difficult times.

So what does being uprooted mean to the residents and workers?

I initially thought everyone would be devastated, but found we all cope differently. The village is very scenic, and many of the residents chose to live her specifically due to the proximity to hospitals, public transport and the city. It also has its own gardens, a pond where ducks visit, and the accommodation is made up of single-storey villas, which suited those who wanted to be on the ground floor. While change is inevitable, it was a huge bombshell that this site was not immune to the mass growth happening in Australia, and around the world. It drove home the fact that you really can’t keep living where you are anymore without something around you changing.

For the residents of this village, many never thought they would have to move away from the site, or their neighbours, at this stage of their life.

Not everyone is completely devastated though. Some residents have implemented an adaptive coping style and have already put their name on the list for an alternative village, or have even moved out. Others have adopted a passive approach, deciding they will not be dealing with it this year, but will wait until next year to act. However, for those who decided to stay and have chosen a passive approach, the change is impacting them now anyway. Some of their neighbours have already left, so on their daily walk they no longer see the same faces. They didn’t know they would be facing those changes so rapidly. So, even those who decided not to do anything now, are still being forced to face the issue.

I received a Government grant to run a group program at the village to support those who have stayed, and have been delivering an 8-week preventative psychoeducational program on site. The Wellness Adventure program is exactly the same program my licensees deliver to residents and it has been amazing to see it in action and witness the results firsthand.

I have seen some really positive outcomes in the participants. They have turned up to the session each week and I can see the benefits in terms of resilience building, problem-solving, coping strategies and self-care. While all are dealing with the same challenge of needing to find a new home in their 80s or 90s, all are processing it quite differently. They are all on different journeys.

Spending time with them, being able to hear their stories and learn more about their coping strategies has been wonderful. Not only can I help them, it also helps me to create new programs for other elders and those who support them who are going through similar challenges.

The elders from the village who have been coming to the Wellness Adventure program are actually doing okay, despite the significant change they are experiencing. They are coping well. The group has given them an opportunity to debrief and share their experience in a non-judgemental environment. It’s not group psychotherapy, it’s education. The result has been that attendees are not necessarily needing a referral toa  psychologist, as they are finding ways to adapt and cope without that level of support. This can work for others too. If you are able to bring people together in a room where they can share their experience, address their concerns, hear stories, listen without judgement and hear what others are going through, it is really beneficial.

It’s clear from this example that it’s not all doom and gloom. Residents from this village are demonstrating resilience, and leaving the program with newly acquired skills. It shows that you can build resilience in late life, and that we can help and support the elders in our care to improve their outcomes.

What you do matters. Look for ways to create opportunities for your clients to discuss concerns, where you can hear them out and show them they are a valuable member of society, and that their voice is being heard. Recognising the individual differences between people is really important to help us understand how to support them best.


In this episode you will learn:

  • How everyone copes with change differently
  • What is the impact of a disintegrated support network?
  • Why change is inevitable where we live
  • Ways you can support elders cope with change
  • How the Wellness Adventure program can help.



Beyond the Reluctant Move book

5 Facts About Me Worksheet

Wise Care workshops