Opinion: twilight years and a booming town


By Peter Carr

It is one of those Sunday evenings when, faced with a blank screen and a waiting keyboard, I ponder what is material that should be covered this week. Granted my main slant is in support of those of more advanced years but this has been a quiet week in that regard.

So, I will digress from the elderly’s needs and take a look at our beloved town – which was described as ‘small’ when we came here to reside 15 or so years ago.

Take a look at it now. The road towards Hamilton is embraced by two major housing developments underpinned by a new medical centre and, I hear, an additional primary school. On the other side of the river housing areas are springing up on and near the road to Rotorangi. Back across the river, Norfolk Downs is still expanding and, no doubt, there will be pressure for a large city-like supermarket. In fact, Cambridge, by population criteria, will soon qualify to be discussed as a future city – but heaven help that we get another group of bureaucrats and wanna-be politicians.

Prior to the expressway that by-passes the town being constructed there was fear – mainly among the retailers – of the town dying, empty premises abounding and a general malaise settling over what used to be a couple of boroughs. Well have you tried parking your car on any day but Sunday? It is a struggle, but we are still not ready for parking meters, wardens or other forms of control. Cars move on quickly, pedestrians stream quietly across the Victoria Street crossings although many do so with head hung low and no cheery wave for the obliging motorist.

The smattering of road-side enterprises alongside Victoria Park brings some extra colour to the area where the council undertook some tidying up of the kerbing area. And across the road the council, who have hung on tenaciously to the Town Hall operation – believing that they understand commerce – have now thrown in the towel and are looking for a group of focussed commercial people to turn the elderly and lovely (outside) building into a worthwhile venture. Bit late council – but a good move anyway.

At the outer edges of the town the attractive retirement village buildings on the way to the Avantidrome are increasing in number. While another well-respected village operator is intent, north of the Expressway by-pass, on building and operating a haven for those over-65’s who have decided that they can make better use of their time other than painting soffits, weeding gardens and cutting grass.

This retirement village growth creates Cambridge as a major centre for this activity, matched with similar centres in Mosgiel and Nelson. There are 45,000 people in these villages (they are not rest homes) across in excess of 400 villages. And another 80 such enclaves are in the pipeline somewhere between the drawing board and final creation. By 2034 more than one fifth of the country’s population will be over the age of 65 years.

The retirement village industry employs approaching 20,000 people, several of the companies are successful members of the stock exchange and collectively they produce good returns for their shareholders. In my village around 270 people live in peaceful coexistence enjoying each other’s company and engaging in several worthwhile pursuits both recreational and social.

Newer villages are assuming sizes of approximately 250 houses and Cambridge has attracted residents for such ventures from throughout the country. Only this morning outside of our house the active and large croquet group were clearly enjoying themselves judging by the continual sounds of merriment emanating from the players.

If you cannot have fun in your twilight years, then there must be something very wrong somewhere.

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