Mateship blooms in the garden
It’s not only vegetables that flourish in the garden of The Avenue Maroochydore … friendships have also formed.
Green thumbs Noel Merwood and Barrie Smith share a love of gardening and a common bond as former Kiwi farmers. Coincidentally, the pair grew up within 100km of each other on New Zealand’s North Island.
“We didn’t know each other until we landed here in the village and we both quickly got the job of looking after the vegie garden,’’ Noel says.
The pair grow capsicums, tomatoes, carrots, cabbages and lettuce in their plot that is available to other residents who, if they wish, can make a small donation that funds seedlings for Barrie and Noel’s next crop.
“We were naturals for the job in the vegie garden as we were both farmers,’’ Barrie says. “Noel and I, we’re on the same page. Our friendship has developed because we had something in common and we also both moved in so soon after The Avenue’s opening.’’
They describe themselves as “pioneers’’ of The Avenue. Noel and wife Val moved into the Sunshine Coast retirement village in June 2019 when it opened and Barrie and his wife Margaret arrived two weeks later.
But the pair say the village friendship circle continues to grow as more people arrive. Barrie and Noel say all it usually takes is for someone to call out “come out and have a cup of coffee’’ for a gathering to emerge with other residents.
“It’s pretty much just us in the garden but anyone is most welcome to join us. Noel just walks straight out from his apartment to the garden,’’ Barrie says.
Outside the vegie patch, the men enjoy heading out together for a ride on their electric bikes, a game of pool or sharing a beer after a hard day in the garden. Their wives regularly join them to socialise.
Forging new friendships can often be a challenge for men after their working lives are done, unlike women who find the task much easier. Living within a tight-knit community with like-minded residents makes it effortless for both men and women to “click’’ and strike up friendships.
Aura Holdings’ Director Tim Russell said it had been a joy to witness so many deep friendships develop within the villages, particularly those like that of Barrie and Noel.
“It’s really vital through all stages of our lives to have meaningful relationships and the support and friendship we see every day in our communities is something very special,’’ Tim says. “Who would want to be locked up in your large, old family home when you could be amongst people who care and will be there for you?
“Our villages offer so many varied activities for people with common interests whether it be gardening, craft, art, cooking, music or choir. Taking part in something you enjoy makes it easy for friendships to form.’’
Noel and Barrie say they and their wives are thriving in the Maroochydore village. “It is a very hospitable place where we’ve all really enjoyed getting to know each other and the Village Manager Mandy is great,’’ Noel says.
In the photo: Noel, Mandy and Val during Christmas celebrations in 2019
Barrie says The Avenue is more of a family than a place where people live. “We are one family really. We don’t think of this as a retirement village, we think of it as a family. As the second stage is built and the village gets bigger that family will just grow too,’’ he says.
“We are all close and that closeness just gets stronger. It’s been particularly obvious to us all while we’ve been in self-isolation recently. We’ve really had to rely on each other to keep sane.’’
To find out more about our friendly villages in southeast Queensland call (07) 3397 2930 or email email@example.com