For Helen Castles, Weary Dunlop is the Goldilocks of retirement villages: big enough to have everything she needs but small enough to retain a close, caring village community.
The 85-year-old, who shares her independent apartment with canine village celebrity Buddy, knows more than most just how deep that community support runs.
Helen gets teary as she speaks about her late husband, Geoff, who passed away in 2016 – “I still miss him” – but smiles as she recounts how fellow residents and staff responded.
“The whole community rallied around me and it was wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”
When she saw Weary Dunlop’s maintenance man sitting in a pew at Geoff’s funeral, proudly wearing his Ryman uniform, she knew “care and kindness” was more than an advertising tagline.
Not long after Geoff’s passing, Helen once again felt the warm embrace of the village when a health issue made taking Buddy for his four walks a day difficult.
Friends quickly put together a roster to help, and two years later Buddy is still enjoying his long morning strolls with residents Bill and Wayne three days a week.
“That’s the sort of people they are here, they’re just wonderful.”
Wheelers Hill Shopping Centre is a short walk from the village, on the same side of the road.
And while Helen says she has everything she could possibly need within the village gates, Weary Dunlop’s proximity to an array of local amenities makes stepping out when she wants to quick and easy.
“It’s very accessible to the shopping centre up the road, and you don’t have to cross the street.”
Helen says she understands the challenges of being a single woman later in life, but she has some simple advice for anyone like her who is thinking about moving into a village like Weary Dunlop: “I’d say go for it hands down, I really would.”
“The atmosphere in this village is fantastic, it’s something really special I think.”