Our Carlyle Gardens Retirement Requirements

Jean had a little list, which certainly wasn't complete. She was also mindful of what her parents had available during their long retirement in Panorama City retirement village. They didn't use every facility that was available to them, but they had good support from the village.

Our retirement requirements?

A retirement village with a physical and social support infrastructure so that we could travel without worry, have help with outdoor or garden work, and have a good social connection with other residents.

Located in a warm but not too humid part of the country, with a choice of suitable health care options and a convenient airport with good connections to other parts of the country.

Good, fast internet access available.

Easy access to recreational facilities such as a gym, pool, maybe a restaurant.

Convenient transport options if one doesn't have a car.

Far enough above sea level and/or far enough from the coast to minimise the risk of flooding from storms (including cyclones), tsunami, sea levels rises, etc.

Not in an area likely to be flooded by river runoff or flooding, for example from heavy rain associated with cyclones.

Facilities to minimise inconvenience from power outages of up to several days (e.g., solar power sufficient to keep some things running - though not the air-conditioning). This ruled out most buildings with elevators.

The house or apartment must have no internal or external steps.

Must have some way to separate my space from Eric's space, with a sound barrier between us.

Must have two toilets, and preferably two bathrooms.

Must have good storage space.

How did Carlyle Gardens meet our requirements?

Location. The airport issue pretty much restricted location to major towns. Townsville has a fairly wide range of flights. Winter temperature eliminated most areas outside the tropics. The humidity issue meant Darwin was out. Extreme summer temperature and isolation meant West Australia was out. However Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and much of the south east Queensland coast was possible, with some humidity issues in summer.

Internet access in regional Australia is essentially limited to Telstra phone lines. No cable. No fibre optics. ADSL is readily available, but without much competition, so prices tend to be higher. Telstra BigPond often offer faster ADSL2+, but only if you are close (under two kilometres) from the phone exchange. ADSL2+ is basically not available from other retailers outside major cities. This meant our internet requirements could not be met.

Carlyle Gardens had a gym, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a bar, a commercial hairdresser, an auditorium, an arts and crafts room, a hobby workshop.

The local bus route to a nearby shopping centre (3 kilometre), or to hospital and university, stops at the reception door. Carlyle Gardens runs their own 22 seat bus with volunteer drivers for scheduled shopping trips, and various organised events. Residents can set up their own event to suit their needs. There are over 100 taxis in Townsville.

Flooding is always an issue in a flat continent prone to droughts, and flooding rains. We noticed Carlyle Gardens, Bargara near Bundaberg seemed very close to the sea. The area near Carlyle Gardens, Mackay actually was partly flooded before we started looking, at a time when many shops were flooded. Carlyle Gardens, Townsville is a fair few kilometres inland, and about 9 metres above sea level. Flooding from runoff remains a potential risk at Carlyle Gardens, Townsville, due to its location between the Ross and Bohle Rivers. However the raised land base means several thousand other homes nearby would flood first.

New homes at Carlyle Gardens, Townsville had solar hot water systems. Hot water is one of the more expensive uses of electricity. So that was step one. Solar panels do not make a home energy independent. They stop providing power when the regular electricity supply cuts off (this is a safety measure). However grid interactive solar power is also a step towards an independent power supply. However the easiest and cheapest early step is a garage large enough for a generator, and several long power cords. Good insulation, and extensive awnings, are needed for summer comfort when power is low. The specified insulation was inadequate, but we can boost that. There were no awnings, but we could add them. We considered hot water and garage space sufficient as a start.

Most homes in retirement villages now avoid steps, and do not put in things like multiple floors or sunken lounges. There is a low step outside to the front door, but there is space to install a small ramp if needed.

Separation of facilities is just a matter of getting sketch plans early, and eliminating designs that will not work. We went for a three bedroom design to get separate offices. Most homes now have a bathroom and an en-suite, unless at the low end of the market.

Different designers have different ideas of how much storage space is enough. For some people, it is never enough. In the design we picked, there was a build in wardrobe in each of the three bedrooms. There was a linen closet in the hall outside the main bathroom. Each bathroom had an under counter cupboard and several drawers. There were a heap of kitchen cupboards, include many that went to the ceiling. There was actually more storage than we needed in the kitchen. However the laundry could have used more storage than just under the tub. Actually all the designs we saw had far more kitchen and entertainment space than we needed, and as a consequence the bedrooms were smaller than we would have liked as offices.