Les Coffman understands scepticism around retirement living. After all, it wasn’t long ago he was adamantly telling his wife she’d never persuade him to leave the family home. While serving with the Royal Air Force, the mechanic spent his younger years billeted in military accommodation – and was convinced a village aimed at pensioners would be similar.
“I thought we’d be dictated to and have bosses coming in, saying what we can and can’t do,” tells the 93-year-old with a smile. “But we haven’t had that at all. There’s a good atmosphere. I find it very friendly and whenever we get back here after being out, it really is like coming home.”
It was music to wife Kath’s ears when Les finally agreed to look around Bupa Hugh Green Retirement Village on Auckland’s North Shore in 2017. The great-grandmother was finding the maintenance on their Torbay unit becoming too much and admits “things were getting on top of me”.
The 95-year-old confides, “The vacuum cleaner I could once lift with one hand, I could barely get out of the cupboard. Mowing the lawn, weeding the driveway... It was starting to get us down.” She enticed her husband to Bupa’s Albany village with a promise of a movie screening they’d advertised – but once he got there and explored the apartments for himself, Les quickly changed his tune.
While they were both in their advanced years when they moved into the village, the active couple, who have nine grandchildren and five greatgrandchildren, haven’t cooled their heels since. Indeed, you’ll find Kath in the gym five times a week, while Les, a keen runner who was a New Zealand FIFA football referee, enjoys playing bowls.
“There’s everything for you here,” enthuses Kath, adding that while the couple no longer drive, they can make use of the residents’ bus to get groceries and go on excursions. “There’s almost too much – you can’t do it all!”
They also feel proud to invite friends and family to the village. Their grandchildren have enjoyed sleepovers in the second bedroom of the couple’s elegant fourth-floor apartment, and when Kath and Les marked their 70th wedding anniversary recently, they held a party for 70 people in the village.
The pair are relieved they don’t have to lean too heavily on family for support. “I find it hard to ask for help – I feel guilty if I do. I don’t want to be a burden,” confesses Kath.
“When I first came in, I felt a load of worry was off me,” she tells. “I want to be independent for as long as I can be.” With that, Kath is off to bring the washing in, while Les is heading to a game of bingo. It’s the life that’s right for them.