Premila and Ebbie are quick to sum up life at Ryman Healthcare’s Nellie Melba Retirement Village.
“It is a very happy place” they both say.
In fact, after living at the Wheelers Hill village for about two years things are going from strength to strength, Premila says.
“Morale is very high.
“Everyone is very pleased with the arrangements put in place to keep us safe during COVID-19.
“We can walk around the lovely gardens and meet and greet and connect with one another, from a safe distance of course, so we have not felt isolated.
“There is always a smile and you often hear people say: ‘isn’t it lovely living here, how lucky we are!”
They say life at the village has been “wonderful” from the start.
“It is a very convenient location, particularly for us because our daughter lives on one side of the village, the shopping centre is on the other, it is well serviced by buses, our church is next door and our old home is within walking distance, so we had the good fortune of not having to change locality,” Premila says.
“Same doctor, same dentist and our former neighbours even visits, we go for walks together.
When the government started discussing COVID-19 restrictions the couple’s concerns about how social distancing rules might impact village life were soon allayed, Ebbie says.
“Our management were very caring in their approach, and we have been very, very happy with how well we have been looked after.”
Ryman started screening non-essential visitors to its two Wheelers Hill villages, Nellie Melba, and Weary Dunlop Retirement Village, weeks before the country went into lockdown. Everyone who did visit had to have a temperature check and sign a health declaration.
Residents were also asked to stay within the village and staff increased the number of deliveries of groceries and supplies to reduce the need to leave. Essential supplies of bread, milk and biscuits were provided weekly free of charge to residents.
More than 56,000 Happy Hour in a bag packages, and 9,000 grocery orders were delivered to Ryman residents at villages in Australia and New Zealand over the course of seven weeks.
Other measures to ensure Nellie Melba and Weary Dunlop villages were safe havens included using a PA system so residents could participate three times a week in a popular "Move 'n Groove" exercise class from the lawns or their balconies. Other activities included hallway bingo and a regular balcony ballads event, in which residents could practise social distancing while singing feel good tunes from their balconies.
Regular newsletters and puzzles were supplied to help people stay informed and engaged.
Zoom video calling technology was installed on more than 3800 devices so Ryman residents and their families could stay connected.
Ryman also reached out to future residents of its John Flynn Retirement Village in Burwood East, and Aberfeldie and Highton villages which are under construction, to offer support during COVID-19.
Wellness packs and blankets were sent to residents under contract and sales advisors increased the frequency of calls to future residents wanting additional information and support.
Future John Flynn Retirement Village resident Shirley said she appreciated Ryman’s ongoing support as she and husband, Val, prepared for the exciting move.
“An interior designer visited, and we selected the drapes and carpet colours, and our sales advisor Michelle Shaw has been really good at keeping us updated with how construction of the village is going.”
Future resident of Ryman’s Aberfeldie village Judy said hearing how residents at Ryman villages had been looked after during COVID-19 was yet another reminder she had made the right decision.
“Everything Ryman does puts me at ease and makes me feel quite relaxed,” she says.
Ryman’s John Flynn Retirement Village and Highton village are due to open later this year. The Aberfeldie village is due to open in 2021.
At Nellie Melba, Premila and Ebbie Brito say the village is “a very happy and safe place”.
“We love the facilities, we love the people, we love the fact that the management is so good and caring and has provided us with so much to do during COVID-19,” Premila says.
The couple say they have even made more friends at the village as a result of Ryman’s response to the pandemic.
“The events, particularly the ones involving lovely music and dancing, have been a really good way of getting us out,” Premila says.
“Although we always go to the Happy Hour, we have been able to meet and greet even more new people with the events on the balconies.”
Ebbie says they never miss an opportunity to show friends around the village.
“Many of our friends who come here feel sorry that they are too young to put their names down,” he laughs.
They only wish the village had opened sooner, he says.
“My advice would be you don’t have to look any further, and the earlier you make the decision, the more you will benefit from it.
“Because getting old is not an option, and the security and care that we get here is exceptional.”