As Jagdish and Valerie Natali near their first anniversary of living at Murray Halberg Retirement Village, they grow increasingly thankful that they made the big move.
The contrasting experience of last year’s lockdown spent in their large family home of 45 years compared with in their two-bedroom apartment in the brand-new Moller block has underlined that feeling even more.
“There’s a vast difference,” says Jagdish. “We feel a lot safer and we don’t feel lonely. For our safety and wellbeing, after coming here, it’s the best thing we did in our life.”
He adds: “I feel quite energised and happy - sometimes I reflect and I wish we had done it earlier!”
The couple were particularly touched by the twice-weekly deliveries organised by the village team – one including bread, milk and biscuits, and the other a Happy Hour in a bag, personalised for them as a non-alcoholic soft drink and snack.
“It’s the sort of thing that makes you feel that you’re well looked after and taken care of and it means a lot to people like us at our age, especially those that can no longer drive.”
Right at the start of the lockdown Jagdish discovered they had run out of bread.
“The staff came and dropped it off. It might seem like a little thing to others but to us it’s a big thing. And that’s the feeling you get with Ryman, it’s like we’re one big family.”
Before lockdown restrictions were put in place, the couple had been getting the most out of village life, making new friends at every turn on regular walks around the grounds and in the village centre. They also reconnected with old friends they had known from their dairy business in Blockhouse Bay and Jagdish’s former job at NZ Post Office, later Telecom.
“We spent a lot of time in the village centre, going to the café and we used to have a lot of our meals and lunches over there. Both Val and I enjoy meeting people and it was a great way to increase our network of people we know in the village. So we have settled in very well.”
Jagdish says they would also enjoy the weekly Happy Hour get-togethers in the village lounge, forming a great group of residents they met through their next-door neighbour.
A huge amount of stress was lifted just by simply not having to worry about the upkeep of the house and garden anymore which Jagdish says has enriched their lives even further.
“It means I can devote that time to Val and we can do things now that we couldn’t do before.”
Their moving to the village has made their four children happier too!
“They’re happy because they see how happy we are and how much support we’re getting, and they’ve noticed we have made friends and people talk to us. I think they visit us here more often than when we were at our house! They love coming here and spending time with us. We either stay here and have a coffee or we go to the café.”
Jagdish was thrilled to be able to take his seven-year-old granddaughter to the village pool when she came to stay for a couple of nights and can’t wait until she’s able to come again.
The family was also impressed with how their parents were welcomed into the Ryman fold even before they had moved in.
When they were looking for somewhere to host a big family reunion with relatives who were visiting from Fiji pre-COVID-19, the village offered them use of the village centre.
“None of us could believe it, we were so overwhelmed with their support,” says Jagdish, who makes a point of recommending village life to his many friends he has made from decades serving on local school boards, being both former president of the Auckland Indian Association and secretary of the NZ Indian Central Association and his work as a marriage celebrant and JP, most recently for residents in the village.
He says it quite simply: “We are very, very happy and we couldn’t be in any better place than where we are now.”
They follow different faiths, have had very different careers and there is 15 years in age between them.