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Couple in Bupa retirement village are downsizing masters

Date: 29 Apr 2022

It's the piano that Glenys Lamb remembers – her old Bechstein she donated to a young girl keen to learn.

Glenys, now 84, and husband John, 87, began their preparations for moving out of their home of 51 years well before moving into a two-bedroom apartment in Bupa Parkstone Retirement Village in Christchurch.

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Couple downsizing walking

While giving away the piano hurt, the Lambs' downsizing and move into a retirement village serves as an absolute model for the many older Kiwis contemplating the same thing – and Glenys, almost two years later, is bursting with pride at the piano's new life…and their own.

"We are so very happy," she says. "Bupa Parkstone is great – we have done the right thing." And it looks like they did it the right way too.

"We had too much to fit into a two-bedroom apartment," she says. "A friend of ours knew a family whose daughter wanted a piano." One of the Lambs' three children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren wanted the piano too – but their house couldn't accommodate it.

"I wanted it to go to someone who could use it. Since then I've seen a photograph of the young girl playing; it was really quite moving."

Giving away furniture and other belongings is part of a successful downsize, the couple say. John, a former civil engineer and high-ranking official in local government, is nothing if not methodical – and the Lambs say forward planning and proactivity are key.

John began the exercise of downsizing even as they were selling their family home and says a vital element in downsizing is to involve the family early: "Our home was their family home – and they had to realise they would not be going there any more for family occasions and the like," says John. "It was hard for them at first, especially as I'd been saying I wouldn't move."

The Lambs were in the fortunate position of being able to give a lot of their possessions away, much of it going to the Salvation Army. They know not everyone can do the same and say involving family early helps with selling things, for example.

"Don't over-value your possessions," says John "It hurt a bit at first when we realised others may not value some things as highly as we did – but, in the end, they really aren't worth much on the market. That's why we felt so good later after giving things away."
The couple also understands they were especially lucky – their Bupa apartment is about 600m from their old house, avoiding a move to a new area, away from family, friends and familiar landmarks.

So here are the Lambs' top tips for downsizing and moving into a retirement village:

•Pack things up as you go and store the boxes in areas of the house that do not affect daily living and comfort.

•Involve family early in the practical but emotional task of deciding what to do with family "heirlooms" and less significant items.

•Select a trusted mover and insist on using smaller boxes rather than the big, heavy ones movers traditionally use – it's easier when unpacking.

•Don't forget insurance – those travelling longer distances shouldn't forget to insure their belongings for the shift.

"I've got to say that I was determined not to move at first," says John. "But when I saw the Bupa apartment – a view, a large lounge and two bedrooms – I was won over."

"I was sold from the beginning," says Glenys. "However, once you're in, you need to get out there, make friends and do things – and there is plenty to do. And don't leave it too late [to move into a village]," she says. "There's a whole world of things to do; that's what we have done and we are very, very happy."