Virginia Thiessen worked in aged care all her life and knows what happens to people when they suffer a traumatic accident when living at home alone.

“I just never wanted my children to get a phone call saying, ‘your mum’s had a fall, you’ve got to find a bed for her’,” said the retired nurse.

She swapped a four-bedroom home in Glen Waverley, 19km southeast of Melbourne’s CBD, for a light-filled three-bedroom apartment at Ryman Healthcare’s Bert Newton Retirement Village in Highett, 16km southeast of the State capital.

Ryman Healthcare’s Nellie Melba, Weary Dunlop and John Flynn retirement villages were closer to the home she had built with late husband Tony, and lived in for 43 years, the move to Bert Newton, which opened its first stage in July 2023, meant she was closer to family.

“Once my husband died it became a house, not a home,” she said.

“When I heard there was going to be a Ryman in Highett and my family are in Elwood, I knew I’d never get any closer.”

Now spontaneous gatherings for a roast meal, or taking grandchildren to sports practice, which were previously restricted by a 40-minute drive, are regular occurrences.

Virginia is also relishing the sense of community developing at Bert Newton.

“For me the move is what I dreamed of doing, and here I am,” she said.

“I call it my little piece of Heaven because it’s quiet, it’s warm, it’s community and it’s convenient because everything in the area is close by.”

In the coming months the sense of community will develop further with the opening of amenities including an indoor pool, café, and gardens.

“I can’t wait to take a glass of wine and a chair outside and have someone yell out ‘I’ll come down and join you in five minutes’,” she said.

Virginia is evidence that she does not have to stay in her retirement village.

“When I retired at 55, we bought a 17.5 ft caravan and for 19 years we’d go away in it to amazing places,”

She will embark on two trips this year, The Ghan train journey with friends from Probus and to Japan.

“I worked in aged care all my working life,” she said.

“I have gained such internal peace from being here because this address will be my address until the day I die.

“I make light of it, I’m living independently, and I’ll go to assisted living when I need it and after that I’ll go to the dying room anyway,” she laughed.