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Retirement? What's that?

Date: 21 Jun 2022

Carol Murfitt lives in a retirement village – though it's hard to tell.

There's nothing retiring about the life of this 72-year-old who moved in to Bupa's Willowbank Retirement Village in January 2021 – and who completely explodes the myth that once someone moves into a retirement village, their world narrows and constricts.

Village manager showing process

"I suppose you could say I have a busy life," says Murfitt, who confesses to such a crowded schedule outside the retirement village that she treasures the rare times when she can find a comfy chair and put her feet up in her Willowbank villa.

Let's see, how's this for a list of activities: darts, housie (bingo) calling, a wine club, going to speedway, a Holden cruising club and various other duties for the Taradale and District RSA – her main focus outside of Willowbank.

She joined the RSA 22 years ago; husband Brian, 79, was a darts player and she joined to play with him: "We went around other clubs and played darts on a weekly basis. I soon learnt how to play, especially with a good teacher like Brian who had been playing for many years.

"Then I went onto the committee for 11 years, in charge of entertainment, I became vice-president and then I was honoured by being made a Life Member. For the last three years, I have been Patron of the Taradale RSA – and still am."

She is there, she says, at least five days a week and, among many other administrative and social duties, she helps with the housie calling, selling Anzac Day poppies and is heavily involved with getting the RSA Wine Club off the ground: "We started just before Covid-19 hit, as we had to pause things for a while – but it is taking off now.

"We've had some magnificent wineries come to talk about winemaking, with a variety of tastings. We have 30 members – and it's growing all the time."

It's a measure of Murfitt's energy and sense of purpose that she was put in charge of the RSA's entertainment – it is no easy matter finding and organising the right sort. She remembers several New Zealand entertainment icons among her captures – Tom Sharplin, Gray Bartlett and Shane Hales (previously known as just Shane) , now in his 70s himself and the source of the fine old New Zealand hit song, St Paul (written about Paul McCartney).

"I guess I could say I'm a good example of how to live in a retirement village," she says, "because I'm pretty busy when I am not here; it doesn't really feel like retirement."

Family plays a big role in her external interests – her grandson and granddaughter race in the Production Saloon Cars class in speedway and she has watched them regularly. A son also started a group – a kind of a club – involving Holden cars which go on outings and fundraise for causes like breast cancer and Women's Refuge and, naturally, Carol is there too.

Carol Photo 2

And then there's Brian, whose health was the reason for moving out of their Taradale home. He is in a Bupa care home specialising in dementia care.

"I do a lot around the village as well," says Murfitt, "and I love a game of cards, five crowns and rummikub – and the exercise class. However, I haven't made it to the exercise class yet because I try to see Brian at least three days a week."

She has made, along with her long-time RSA friends, a new group of friends in the village – and mentions a widow who also grew up in Carol's home town of Wairoa and a couple who also live close to her villa and are a favourite stop for a chat and maybe a glass of wine.

"This shift [to Willowbank] was the right thing at the right time for me. It was getting difficult with Brian at our Taradale home. And moving here has certainly changed my life; I'm even busier," she laughs.

"It's a great place. I enjoy it and I like how I can have my life outside the village as well as in it."