Bess had never considered living in a retirement community, but since moving to The Woodlands in June 2022, she has been enjoying a better social life than ever before.

Having grown up in Manchester, Bess married her husband when she was 20 and they emigrated to Canada for four years.

“When we moved back, my husband got a job in Poole in Dorset, so we lived there for 28 years and that’s where we had our two children, Stephen and Alison.

“By the time we got divorced Stephen was at university and Alison was living in Greece. At that time my mum, who still lived in Manchester, was poorly, so I left Poole and moved back to look after her to the end of her life.”

Bess bought a one-bedroomed flat in Heald Green and worked in a care home in Didsbury whilst looking after her mum.

“After that, I joined the Greater Manchester Police and worked in the custody office, processing the prisoners, taking their DNA, fingerprinting them, photographing them and arranging for them to get to court under the right charges. I did that for years at various police stations throughout Manchester. My final post was at the police station at Manchester Airport, where I worked until I retired in 2011.”

Deciding to move

With two flights of stairs and no lift, Bess was starting to struggle to walk up those stairs with her shopping.

“I’ve always been a sporty person and I thought I’d stay healthy and fit for the rest of my life. I played netball when I left school, and I played football in my 30s. Now I’ve got diabetes and I’ve got osteoarthritis; I never expected all that. I’d always thought when you get to 50 or 60, the road is straight. It isn’t. Things change dramatically. Life is full of twists and turns.”

At the same time, a developer who wanted to knock down the flats to build a car park, made an offer to Bess and the other flat owners.

“We kept getting offers of people wanting to buy the building that my flat was in, because of its location so close to the airport. About five times in the past, there had been an offer that fell through. At the start of the year, a new company came along and this time it all worked out.”

Visiting The Woodlands

Margaret was planning to look for another flat when her friend invited her to an open day at The Woodlands.

“My best friend, Margaret, who lived in Heald Green, was the reason I first came to visit The Woodlands. We’ve known each other for 12 years and she’d seen these apartments.

“I hadn’t ever considered moving to a retirement community. I just wanted a little private flat. I hadn’t experienced anything like this.

“Margaret invited me to a coffee morning at The Woodlands in February and I came along, just to support her. Margaret wanted a two or three bedroomed apartment, so they showed her these apartments and they were so nice. I was really impressed.

“I said that I was looking for a small, cosy apartment somewhere else but that I’d have a look at a one-bedroomed apartment, just to see what they’re like. I walked in and looked out of the window, and onto the big balcony, and I turned to Paul, from the sales team, and said I’ll have it! He started laughing and I said, no really, I’ll have it!

“I just loved it. I walked in and all I could see was the garden and the balcony and it was exactly what I’d dreamed of having. It was absolutely lovely and from then on, life has just continued to get better.”

Community spirit

Bess’s friend also decided to move to The Woodlands.

“Margaret had to go home and bring her husband back but within a week, they’d bought an apartment just around the corner from me. It’s lovely living in the same retirement community as your best friend.”

Over the next few months, Bess made some new friends at The Woodlands too.

“Every coffee morning they’ve had here since February, I’ve been there, so the team knew me very well by the time I moved in. The staff are fantastic. They go out of their way, they’re so nice, they’re just wonderful.

“It was nice because I met lots of other people who were moving in too. There’s a big group of us that have moved in now and we all get on so well. We have a really good laugh. We all join in and all help each other. It really has worked out so well. We’ve all got the same mindset. It’s super. I’ve made some good new friends as well as the good friends I already had.

“In my old flat I never saw my neighbours. They went to work, came back, shut their door, that was it. I’ve definitely got a better social life now than I had before. It’s brilliant!”

Enjoying a range of activities

Since moving to The Woodlands, Bess has been enjoying taking part in a number of activities.

“I take part in keep fit twice a week. We have coffee mornings. We have card games. Some of my neighbours are learning to crochet and we’re knitting squares to make into blankets to send to places that need them.

“We have a dartboard in the homeowners lounge and we’re going to get a team together so we can play against The Chimes, another Adlington Retirement Living community in Cheadle.

“I’m in the book club. We meet once a month and David, who runs the club, gets all the books from Stockport library. There’s 15 of us, so he gets 15 copies and we all read it over the month. I take mine downstairs in the front room, as I call it, and sit and read my book. It’s lovely.”

Bess has also enjoyed some of the special events that are regularly hosted at The Woodlands.

“An author came to give a talk the other week who was so interesting. He’d written a book about somebody in the airforce in the war. At the end of it, he gave us all a copy of his book, Airborne, and signed them. It was really interesting.

“We also had a young lady who did a 50s night, singing. She had a lovely voice and sang all the old songs from musicals. That was lovely. She’s coming back at Christmas. We’ve got a few things organised for Christmas and New Year.

“I definitely have more of an active social life now than I did before I moved here. Where I was before nobody mixed and I didn’t see anybody. I had my personal friends who I had to go out to see or they came and visited me but there was nothing else. Here, we’ve got a nice plan of different activities that are available on different days. I don’t always go to them all, but I go to the ones that interest me.”

Moving in

Although Bess lived in her flat in Heald Green for 30 years from 1992 until 2022, she found packing up and moving relatively easy.

“My new apartment is the perfect size for me. It’s lovely, and it looks onto the garden, which is great. I was surprised by how much storage there is. I’ve got room to spare.

“I’ve always been minimalist because if you don’t use something, why have it! To me it’s just logic. Although my flat is one of the smallest ones here, when people come to visit, they say ‘oh isn’t this lovely and spacious’.

“I’ve got the best of both worlds with my apartment because I’ve also got all the communal areas to enjoy like the homeowners’ lounge, the coffee bar and the restaurant. We also have the therapy suite and of course the hair salon. I’ve had reflexology and I had my nails done last week, which was super. This Friday I’m having a facial from a really good, well-trained lady who does a lot of treatments here.

“My children came and helped me to move in and we had lunch in the restaurant. It was a wonderful sense of relief. It’s amazing how quickly the transition happened. I just feel as if I’ve been here forever.

“Since I moved in, they’ve been to visit here numerous times. My son and my daughter both love the restaurant so whenever they come we have lunch. In fact, my son’s two children, who are 16 and 14 now, love the restaurant too, so we all enjoy lunch together.”

Advice to anybody else

Bess is now a firm believer in the benefits of living in a retirement community.

“Before I came to see The Woodlands, I’d never considered moving to a retirement community. I’d only seen or visited people in medical settings like nursing homes or care homes and didn’t understand what a retirement community is. This isn’t a care home. I have my own apartment and the team here are superb. The managers and all the staff will do anything for you. It’s just a lovely atmosphere. Deciding to move here was the best thing I ever did.

“If I was giving anybody advice, the main thing that I would say to somebody would be don’t leave it too late. You mustn’t leave it too late because you get to a point when you can’t face moving. I’ve got a friend who says she doesn’t know what to do because she’s in a big old house and she’s so lonely. She’s in her 80s and she says she couldn’t move now. It’s really sad.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand what retirement living communities are like. The first thing my son said when he came was it’s just like a five star hotel and my daughter said the same. It’s lovely! The staff are all really polite and helpful and they’re genuine. I wish that I’d visited a retirement community maybe five years earlier. I think if I’d have known how good life can be, I’d have moved years ago.”


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