When the full force of Cyclone Gabrielle hit Gisborne in February this year, Sandra Burgering and her rescue cat Lottie sat there stunned and fearful of what was happening to the city’s residents and the community at large.
A little guilt set in because Sandra,73, was safe and sound in her second-floor independent apartment at Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village.
“But I thought, I am up high, flooding won’t be an issue. Even if worst comes to worst, whatever happens - you know no one is going to leave you in the lurch.
“They’ll probably invite us to come down (into the main village centre), put on a meal or open the bar. You still feel interconnected. “
She realised, looking out at the dark, wet and wild weather, that she had made the right choice moving from her Paeroa townhouse in 2020 to the retirement village in Gisborne.
Her Auckland-based family, while realising she would be a little further away from them, were happy she was moving into a retirement village.
“They weren’t thinking ‘oh gosh, what are we going to do about mum? They don’t have to worry about me now” she says.
The fact that family could text her during the Cyclone and were reassured she was safe was yet another reason why her move to a Ryman retirement village was timely.
Actually, her move into an independent apartment was more of a happy accident. Sandra has a good friend in Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village, and she had driven down from Paeroa one week to spend time with her and attend a New Zealand Symphony Orchestra concert.
“I looked at the setup here and thought, ‘mmm yeah, I get the feeling this might work.”
Sandra’s husband had passed away so she did some number crunching and was delighted she could make it work. “I realised the longer I sat thinking about it, the less likely I would do it.”
As she got older, Sandra realised it was a choice she would have to make because looking after a townhouse, with all the maintenance involved would eventually become too much for her.
“I was aware of my vulnerability as an ageing woman trying to get work done. I could see in future that it was going to be an issue for me,” she says. “I have an innate lack of patience so if something isn’t working now, I want it to work, I need to get it fixed.”
So, in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, she knew that even though her village had no running water, she wasn’t alone. She shudders to think how this scenario would have played out had she been in her own house, in the middle of the floods.
A helicopter landing in fields nearby to the village just days after the worst of the flooding gave Sandra extra reassurance.
“It was Ryman people from Christchurch dropping off supplies and personnel to help with what was going on. I was very pleased to see them.
Life for Sandra and the residents at Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village is slowly returning to normal and the community within the village has never been stronger.
“There’s the sociability. You can indulge as much as you want to or withdraw as much as you want to. What’s not to like about that?”