Retirement gives you time to do what you want, whether that’s learning tai chi or setting off to explore the world.
For Pat Johnson, who will be 90 next year, it means a three-week rail trip across Europe, booked city by city online with the help of her son.
“I am very lucky, being as well as I am, and while I can still do these things I believe in doing them,” she says.
“My husband and I bought a canal boat in 1956,” she explains.
“But I sold my boat last November and now I’m treating myself to a special trip.”
Mrs Johnson will depart for Paris by Eurostar, catching the night sleeper to Venice where she will stay four nights.
“The cost of having a room in Venice overlooking the Lagoon is horrifying,” she laughs, “and I wouldn’t be doing it except that I’m spending the boat money.”
A determined solo traveller since being widowed 10 years ago, Mrs Johnson will catch trains to Milan, Nice, Barcelona and Malaga then stay in a village 12 miles along the coast where she and her husband used to go every year “to get out of the winter”.
It’s the holiday of a lifetime for her but she says the best thing she did after her husband died was to move into Audley Binswood in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
“I’ve been here nearly four years now,” says Mrs Johnson, who used to live in a five-bedroom Victorian house nearby. Now she is in a one-bedroom apartment with large rooms and high ceilings that is part of Grade II Listed Binswood Hall, a former school.
“I still see my ex-neighbours; they come and have coffee,” says Mrs Johnson, “but the big advantage of this place is that we are right in the town.”
Other advantages include the on-site swimming pool, gym, spa, restaurant, bar bistro and making new friends among the other residents, who are all over-55.
“If I want to sit quietly by myself I can and if I am lonely there’s plenty of company around me. I am very happy here. It really was the best thing I did.”
Binswood has some apartments still for sale from £325,000 (01926 258049; audleyvillages. co.uk) including kitchen appliances and fitted bathrooms.
There is also planning permission for 24 new-build apartments and two cottages.
Clearing out a family home to move into a one-bedroom flat was “awful” says Mrs Johnson but her advice to anybody considering downsizing is: “Move when you can, not when you must.”
It is advice that Shirley and Stuart Trickett would endorse, after deciding to slow down their pace of life and move into McCarthy & Stone’s Caesars Place development in Godalming, Surrey, designed for over-60s.
Stuart, 68, was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease in 2014 and when their previous home became too much for Shirley, 64, they opted to downsize.
“We both wanted the freedom to devote even more energy to the things we wanted to do in our retirement years,” says Shirley.
“When we saw the lifestyle on offer at Caesars Place, we instantly fell in love with it.”
The 31-apartment development with landscaped gardens is walking distance from Godalming High Street and railway station, with two-bedroom flats starting from £473,950 (0800 201 4106; mccarthyandstone.co.uk).
Since moving in, the Tricketts have started tai chi classes in the homeowners’ lounge and, of course, they are planning to travel.
Trips to the Lake District and Cotswold Water Park are already booked and Shirley adds: “We’re also looking to go further afield next year and hope to go on our first ever cruise together!”
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