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Leith Park, a great retirement start for Julie and Bryan

June 10, 2020

Julie Hopper and Bryan Lewis had a taste of what living in Leith Park was like before COVID restrictions came into force, they liked what they experienced, and are now looking forward to their world opening up anew.

They are among the newest arrivals at the leafy retirement village. They had hoped to move into OCAV’s North Fitzroy village but when they visited Leith Park to see the architecturally designed apartments, they knew they had arrived at where they wanted to settle.

“When we first came here, we were pleased to discover that a ‘Happy Hour’ was a regular feature of social life in our apartments. We attended a couple of these and met many of our neighbours. We decided to repay the hospitality by hosting a Happy Hour ourselves, which was a great success. But as it turned out, ours was the last of these gatherings before the COVID restrictions came into force,” Julie said.

Fortunately, Julie and Bryan had established sufficient contact with the neighbours to ensure they all kept an eye on each other and looked out for each other’s needs.

As Bryan said: “When it comes to striking up friendships, there are some absolute treasures amongst the community here. There has been some isolation in maintaining formal social distancing and restraints on social activities but the vibes of friendship have not been diminished.”

The couple had been thinking for a while about downsizing, as they felt that their three-bedroom Victorian house in Bendigo was becoming too difficult to maintain.

“We thought it would be wise to make the move sooner rather than later, as we wanted to have time to make the most of our retirement while we were still fit and well enough to do so,” Julie said.

“We wanted to be somewhere that allowed for social and community activities, while at the same time giving us the freedom to live independently and pursue our own interests,” Bryan said.

Bryan’s mother had been living at Rushall Park in Fitzroy North and so the couple knew from experience that OCAV provided the opportunity to maintain their own integrity.

“We like the philosophy of OCAV, that it is a not for profit organisation, and that it caters for less well-off members of the community. So many organisations catering for retirees these days are doing so with an eye to the profits. Thus more needy and less affluent older people, especially older single women, are excluded,” Julie said.

For them, the staff too have been a major drawcard, maintaining great humour and care. According to Bryan, their professionalism has shone through.

For Julie, living in Leith Park has been eye-opening because of its safe, beautiful environment with greenery and lots of trees. “I can look out my window and see parrots, cockatoos and noisy miners flying in and out amongst the trees. It is also important that I am living in a place where people make a point of waving, smiling and saying hello. I look forward to the time when we can all socialise again as I miss my Bendigo friends and I want to establish new friendships,” she said.

Bryan had been fearful that there might have been some animosity from the established residents towards “these new people moving into the flash new apartments,” only to find that nothing could be further from the truth.

“What has struck me is that we are amongst our peers: we are of a similar age and have diverse backgrounds but have the commonality of a life lived, with nothing more to prove,” he said.

“I was simply amazed that we could afford to move into a beautiful architect-designed apartment at Leith Park, a dwelling that would be way beyond our reach anywhere else in Melbourne. That it will revert to OCAV after we have passed is fine by us: others will be able to enjoy what we have helped to establish as a home,” Bryan added.

Throughout the lockdown, Bryan has been volunteering in the Leith Park gardens which he is loving. He is looking forward to becoming more involved with other activities. Julie hopes to volunteer at Liscombe House kiosk when she can.

Tips from the couple on making the decision to move into a retirement village:

The move to a retirement village is not easy, and is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, it is a decision much better made sooner rather than later.


  1. To minimise the fear factor, anyone considering such a move needs to look at all the options, financial, social, and personal.

  2. Talk to your financial adviser about how best to fund your move.

  3. Talk to friends and family – all input is valuable.

  4. Organise a visit to a place you may like, and take a friend or a family member with you.

  5. And even if you have not yet finalised your decision, it is never too soon to start downsizing and decluttering! This could be a great time to pass on that vase your niece has always admired, or the brooch your daughter in law fell in love with when she fell in love with your son.

  6. Organise a garage sale and be ruthless in what you get rid of – take the leftovers to the op shop.

  7. Use at least some of the money you raise to go out to dinner with friends and/or family. It all helps to ease the transition.


Keith White, who had heart surgery two years ago, reckons he’s better now than he has ever been. He puts his state of health and well-being down to the life he has found at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa.

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