I’m 81 and Lockdown Hasn’t Stopped Me Living My Retirement to the FullThe restrictions of lockdown have been a problem for many older people in North Yorkshire – according to research by the Co-Op almost a fifth (18 per cent) of those over 50 say that the Covid-19 pandemic has already or will impact their retirement plans.
However for one retiree from Ripon – 81 year old Norma Wells, she has other ideas.
Norma is a retired health link worker, and before covid-19 she was due to move to a new McCarthy Stone retirement apartment so she could enjoy a new retirement lifestyle.
However, while most people would be forgiven for kicking the idea of moving home into the long grass, the lockdown only served to reaffirm Norma’s decision to brave the property market.
While she missed being able to see her friends she describes life on lockdown as a ‘welcome gift’.
“I have to say lockdown treated me well”, says Norma.
“My move was originally planned for end of March, so when this was put on hold McCarthy Stone rented me a holiday cottage in Fearby for several months until I was able to move again. The cottage was owned by a lovely Yorkshire family and situated in their large garden.
“Shelly and Julian really looked after me during lockdown, so much so it was almost like being on holiday. I frequently found fresh garden produce on my doorstep and pots of homemade jam, pickles and even gingerbread appeared. Nothing was too much trouble to them, I almost felt part of their family. The three children were a delight to know.
“When I left `Bridget` who is just 9 years old, sent me a lovely card which made me smile, it said `thanks for being such an awesome guest`. I was glad to have made an impression on them as they had on me.”
She continues: “Life in Fearby was such a welcome gift. If I had still been living in my old house I think it would have been a very different story. It was an older property in a small hamlet near Richmond – a grade two listed converted granary. I’d lived there for 15 happy years, but upkeep and maintenance had become too much for me on my own. Age catches up with you and the thought that one day I might not be able to drive meant I could have found myself stuck. Ironically, lockdown would be the cause of me being stuck!
“I felt vulnerable with it being such a big house and that is not a feeling Norma is used to! I’m a hugely independent and sociable lady so I knew I needed to take control of the situation and future-proof my future so to speak.
“It was emotional saying goodbye to the old house, but they do say that when one door closes another one opens. It sold quickly to a couple with two dogs. It was perfect for them – they were moving from Southport and wanted something more rural where they could walk the dogs and enjoy some peace and quiet outside of their busy jobs. It felt like I passing the baton on which was nice.”
Within days of the restrictions lifting on the property market, and construction restarting, Norma was able to move into her brand new apartment at Dawson Grange, a McCarthy Stone Retirement Living development in Ripon. The first person to reserve there, she was also the first person to move into the development.
She explains: “I had a few sleepless nights during the lockdown wondering if I’d done the right thing”, but if something feels right you have to go for it, and that’s how I felt about the new place. Lockdown wouldn’t stop me!”
Norma continues: “Moving to Dawson Grange means I have no worries about maintaining buildings and gardens, it’s all taken care of.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know Ripon, and not just as a tourist but as resident.
“My friends are really eager to see my new place - I have to remind them that I need to unpack first! I’m hoping we can explore some of the tea rooms, museums and grounds together – it will feel like an adventure. I am also now living much closer to my daughter who is only 40 minutes away so I think that gives her peace of mind.”
She continues: “A funny story to come out from the move is that I have been a volunteer with the North Yorkshire Police for 10 years and my colleagues like to pull my leg that I’ve finally got my own cell because the site where Dawson Grange is built was the former Ripon police station. To me it just feels like it was meant to be!”
From her lockdown family in Fearby to the new family she hopes to build at Dawson Grange Norma is optimistic about the future.
“I attended the first coffee morning at Dawson Grange recently”, she says. “It was a good opportunity to meet the other residents and what I love so far is being able to balance my independence while still having a sense of support.
“You can be totally private if you want to, or you can join in with whatever activities you like. There are buses that stop just outside, you can walk to the local market and there are a range of shops nearby that stock everything you need.
“After a few days it felt like home. The House Manager Kevin is extremely helpful but we very much do our own thing which I like.”
Summing up her experiences of lockdown she says: “There is no use being pessimistic. When it all happened I think it would have been easy to isolate myself, to have had cold feet, cancelled plans but then where would that have led me?
“We’ve just got to try and get on with things.
“I’m 81 and if I can do it, anyone can.”