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At the age of 82 Magdalen Houlihan has a clear message for anyone wondering what life at a retirement development might be like: “Move before you have to!”

“Free yourself from responsibility and rediscover your youth,” says the retired Vocational Education Director, “But don’t leave it too late. There’s a new life waiting for you!”

Magdalen, who has proved to be an inspiring tour de force in her new community, is embracing her new lifestyle since making the move to Churchill Retirement’s Cooper Lodge in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex.

“My new apartment has freed me from responsibility,” she says. “I don’t have to worry about looking after my old house anymore, so I can concentrate on having fun instead.

“I’m busy every day trying new things and contributing to helping other people.

“I’ve got more than just a new property, I’ve got a whole new life, and it’s because of the people and the community we are creating here.

“Everyone is so friendly and down to earth, and I greatly value the support and appreciation of our Lodge Manager Rosemary Phelps.

“I’ve made lots of new friends and taken up so many new activities, both inside and outside my new home.

“I enjoyed contributing to all the social events we used to have prior to lockdown. I joined the Essex Theatre Club and the local gym, and I was always out and about.

“I decided to give up my car last summer, as I didn’t really need it anymore,” she adds.

“Now I have an electric ‘cabin car’ which gets me where I need to go and is very economical. I call her Daisy and she’s like another member of the family – we even gave her a little welcome party when she arrived!”

The support Magdalen and her neighbours have given each other through the pandemic is a further example of the Lodge’s community spirit in action.

“When the second lockdown came in I saw that our local ‘Hat & Mouse’ restaurant was offering meal deliveries, and their food is very nice, so with the help of my friend Christine we’ve been taking everyone’s orders and arranging a regular bulk delivery.

“We’ve had help from the other owners, safely dropping the pre-wrapped food off at people’s doorsteps. Some have kindly organised the occasional glass of wine to go with the food.”

“We’ve all been helping each other out with shopping, and ordering online deliveries for those who need them. I’ve even been teaching one neighbour how to use an iPad so that she can get online herself. It’s important to stay connected in these times, and I’ve enjoyed regular Zoom calls with my friends all over the country, as well as regular telephone calls with my neighbours here.”

After discovering the benefits of her new life, Magdalen is keen to encourage others to do the same.

“A friend of mine often reminds me of the saying that there’s no point looking backwards, as you’re not travelling that way,” she says. “I think it’s very true, and I’m looking forward to positive times ahead, especially when the lockdown is behind us. We’re already planning a reunion gathering in the Owners’ Lounge as soon as the rules will allow it!”

Cooper Lodge, on Pole Barn Lane, is a collection of 40 one-and-two-bedroom purpose built retirement apartments. For further information about the apartments available, call 01255 807 406, or go to www.churchillretirement.co.uk.

Cooper Lodge