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Today's Retirees Seek Action Closer To Home

The Age
By Liz Gooch
When Heather and John Carruthers stroll on to their front balcony, the wild seas of Bass Strait stretch out before them. Fishing boats bob in the distance while surfers make the most of the rising swell.

“You go overseas and you come back and you think, ‘why did I bother going to those other places?’ ” Mrs Carruthers, 62, said.

With Phillip Island, they believe they have found an ideal retirement location.

Selling the family home and moving to the seaside is part of the great Australian dream, but some retirees are discovering they need more than sunshine and a game of golf.

The Carruthers may have found one of Australia's top destinations for retirees - according to the authors of a book that details retiree-friendly locations - but commentators warn that towns offering the ideal holiday are not always suitable for life's later years.

Some lack medical services and public transport and may be too far from family and friends, say Jill and Owen Weeks, authors of Where to Retire

“Our research has shown most people who adapt successfully to a move . . . have moved no more than two hours or 200 kilometres from where they used to live,” Ms Weeks said.

Queenscliff and Echuca also feature in the authors' recommendations. Queenscliff, where almost 30 per cent of the population is aged 65 or over, was selected for its sense of community and restaurants. Echuca gets a mention for its weather and medical facilities.

Ms Weeks, whose book is in its second edition, urges people to write a checklist.

“Many people don't realise moving away (from a city) you may not have the theatre or the art gallery,” she said.

When the Carruthers decided to leave their Wheelers Hill home 15 years ago, they considered Queensland. But Phillip Island won out because it was close to family and friends in Melbourne and had a mild climate.

Boomers in retirement ain't going to amble off to some nursing home.

Professor Allan McLean, director of the National Ageing Research Institute, says a supportive social network can be critical. People often move to faraway destinations only to discover they are isolated from their family, he says.

“People get depressed when they lose their support networks,” Professor McLean said. The risk of depression is greatest for men, particularly if the wife dies.

“It's much worse if they go there after retirement and they don't have the bridge of a part-time job or even a volunteer job,” he said.

Developers are homing in on baby boomers' demands for an active retirement, according to KPMG partner Bernard Salt.

Golf course estates are becoming popular while retirees in the Hunter Valley in NSW can live among the vineyards. In New Zealand, retirement apartments have been built in the snowfields.

“The logic is that boomers in retirement ain't going to amble off to some nursing home and put on slippers and cardigans . . . they're going to be active, whether it's golf or wine or bushwalking, beachcombing, snow-trekking,” Mr Salt said.

Mr Carruthers said: “We were going for lifestyle. I could never go back to Melbourne.”