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A new start

For some, moving into a retirement village marks a new chapter in their life story. But for Heather it's been the start of a whole new book.

A new beginning

Heather recently made the pages of the Bristol Evening Post for staging an eight-hour ‘knit-in’ to raise money for the ‘Help the Heroes’ charity and is already planning her next fund raising event. “It’s going to have to be something way-out to catch people’s attention”, she hints, mischievously, “and that’s as much as I can tell you at the moment.”

But, as Heather explains, it was all very different seven years ago: “I was sharing a flat with my sister who died suddenly and I got very lonely. A friend came to tea one day and brought a booklet about Westbury Fields which was being built. I thought, “that might be all right”, so I came up and had a look around one day and thought it seemed quite attractive.”

“What really interested me was the fact that if I became ill, at least in a retirement village there would be somebody be in the background to help me. You’re not isolated like I was, shut in a flat where if something happens you’ve got nobody to call on. It’s nice to know it’s there - that if you’re in trouble the girls will come running. Losing my sister meant I had nobody at all. That’s what set me going – that and the company. So there and then I put down my deposit on a ‘clod of sod’.”

Things don't always go as planned

At first, things didn’t go quite as planned for Heather. Worried about whether it was right thing for her to do or not, she began to have second thoughts about the flat she'd put the deposit on. "I went along to the sales department to get my deposit back and Rachel Baker, head of marketing and communications, got hold of me and she said "don’t be hasty, see what else happens". They showed me others around the site and I didn’t like them." "Then one day Rachel phoned up and she said "I’ve got some news for you. There’s one going on St Wulfstan Avenue." So I said, “all right I’ll come up and take a look at it.”

“Rachel knew I was unhappy about my first choice flat and she was very good to me. She came up herself to show me around here. Rachel asked if I liked it and I said, “yes, I love it.” The view out there was so lovely and I stood at the sink and I cried with relief that I had found something. I was so relieved, I put my head on her shoulder and I cried. So every time Rachel sees me now she always says, "I have never, ever forgotten the day I made you cry.""

Living life to the full

It’s now nearly seven years since Heather moved into Westbury Fields Retirement Village and she’s never looked back. “I love it here. You wouldn’t get me out with a shoehorn. I’m running about all day. Every day there’s something going on. You’ve got a job to catch me in. I’ve been at the art class this morning. We’ve got a nice driver who takes us shopping and we’re going to Wells for a day-trip on Friday. There was a poetry group yesterday. There’s a craft group and a croquet club. I have computer lessons on a Thursday and we went to ten-pin bowling up at Hollywood Bowl yesterday afternoon.”

“I love dancing and anything with any music in it. Domenica the activities co-ordinator is wonderful. She often brings in people who can sing, dance and entertain. We had some cheerleaders from a local school in the other day. A party of us is going to see the Mikado at the Newman Hall in Henleaze one evening. You’re collected from your doorstep and taken back again afterwards. What more could you want?”

“There’s all sorts of things people can do here. It makes life so happy and pleasant for us all. People can come if they want and, if they don’t, it’s up to them. Me? I’ll try to join in with everything while I still can because there’ll come a time when perhaps I can’t.”

Heather’s extremely proud of her patio which backs onto the cricket pitch which Westbury Fields is built around. “The last two years I’ve had a garden party here. I put the party on as a recognition of everybody’s companionship through the year. I had balloons  pinned on the front of the flat and the porters helped me carry my table through and set it all up. We had lots of wine and I supplied all the nibbles. I picked a nice time when the weather was good. I had it in June last year and we had a lovely time. About thirty-five people came and they all enjoyed it.”

Sooner rather than later

So does Heather have any advice for anyone contemplating making the move into a retirement village? “I can understand people not doing it lightly, but people hang on too long. If you do, you haven’t got the strength or mobility to do it. You really need to do what I did and to do it early enough to make a new life. You hope to get several years of pleasant living. Some people move in and they’ve got all their life’s furniture and they just can’t move around their flat. You’ve got to be hard hearted and say right, enough is enough and that’s going to be it. That way you will settle in and you’re much happier.”

Heather looks out of her patio doors at the view across the cricket pitch: “We get lovely sunsets here - just clear, red, African fiery sunsets. Absolutely beautiful. It’s a lovely, happy life. I’m very contented and so gratified that I’ve got it.”

Every 6 weeks or so, the Trust holds open days at each of our retirement villages in Bristol and North Somerset. If you would like to learn more about buying a St Monica Trust retirement property and enjoy a guided tour by one of our residents, please call the sales team on 0117 949 4004 or email salesteam@stmonicatrust.org.uk.