She’s maintained her independence while living within a peaceful community, and, as a woman of modest means, she isn’t paying a high rent to an investment landlord for her cottage.
“When I first came to Riverside I had a real sense that I’d reached the place I was meant to be,” she says.
Amrita (72) has been on the move since the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. She moved to a flat in Nelson, before coming to Riverside three years ago.
Watching the horses in the paddock from her kitchen window, listening for the familiar rattle of a neighbour’s car up the driveway, hearing the sound of children’s laughter, or peeling spuds for a shared meal, are all things that contribute to her sense of security and connection to the community.
Amrita (pictured at left) is alert to her own wellbeing needs. She’s an active walker and loves to cycle. She’s joined one of Barbie Cole’s choirs (see below) and on indoor days there’s time for brain tuning games, cryptic crosswords and art work.
“If I do get bored or slightly depressed I get in the car or go out or walk. The minute I change my location, my mood rises.”
Now Amrita faces another move. Riverside offers a two-year tenancy during which time tenants can apply for community membership. Otherwise they are asked to leave as the community wants others to experience what Riverside has to offer. Amrita’s been lucky, her tenancy has been renewed once already but she knows she has to leave. Finding her dream of independence, community and countryside rolled into one is not going to be easy.
“I’m sad to leave but I accept Riverside’s way and I’m very grateful for all the time I’ve had here,” she says.
For Amrita's friend Barbie (pictured at right), there's never a shortage of things to do, although she’s officially retired from the work she’s done during her 40 years at Riverside. At 26, as a young teacher fresh from her OE, Barbie arrived to pick apples and never left.
“It was a real boom time,” she remembers. “There were the orchards and dairy. We were able to build houses with the profits we made. I loved the farming – I was still milking cows and tying up boysenberries when I was pregnant with my first child.”
Nowadays on winter mornings she will be the one lighting the fire in the community centre before yoga and tai chi classes. Afternoons may bring a welcome visit from two grandchildren who live at Riverside with their parents. Often there’s a committee meeting, or other admin tasks. Preparing for an evening with one of the three choirs she directs in the surrounding district takes dedication. And on Mondays, afternoon tea with Merle, a founding member now in her nineties, is a regular fixture.
“It’s a good time to work out what help she may need during the week,” Barbie says.
Like life anywhere, Riverside has brought hard times as well as joy, so having support has always been important.
Making close friends at Riverside made a real difference.
“It helps to be on good terms with everyone here, but unless you’ve got some people that you feel close to, it would be hard.”
These days core community members work hard at improving communication. They’ve instigated a weekend hui that’s held a once or twice a year.
“Being able to spend time together really helps – it’s a time to share our thoughts and dreams, and always brings us closer together as a group, knowing that we are working together intentionally.”
This story is part of a series exploring different living arrangements for seniors. The Going it together series is one way the Mental Health Foundation helps people prepare for a later life that has meaning, purpose and joy.