Nine Tips to Make Moving into a Retirement Village Easier

15 mins read time
There’s no single reason why people choose to move to a retirement village. Some are looking for the support, friendship and community that only a retirement village can offer. Others are looking to unburden, declutter and right-size their living situation.

Whatever your reasons, the move to a retirement village can feel like a big step. From selling the family home to getting rid of unneeded items, packing up a houseful of memories to hiring movers, sorting insurance, and much more – there’s plenty to think about and just as much to manage.

To help make things just a little easier, we talked to several current residents of The Sterling about their experience moving – and added a few tips of our own – for this handy guide on moving into a retirement village.

Before you begin: Know your ‘why’
Moving to a retirement village is a big step, so being crystal clear on your reasons for making the move will help keep you focused and motivated when things get complicated.

As the cost of living started going up, The Sterling, Kaiapoi resident Diane decided the time was right to move to a retirement village.

“For me, the house I was living in was just too big, and I had a few health issues too,” she says. “I didn’t want to have to worry about paying the rates, I didn’t want to have to worry about home maintenance, and I just wanted to spend my time the way I want to.”

“Now I can.”

The financial certainty offered by a retirement village is a key attractor for many. It certainly was for Celia and Adrienne, who wanted a greater degree of financial certainty, access to assistance and support if needed, along with easy access to all the busyness and culture of the city.

“We knew we had to downsize our finances and to future-proof ourselves for the future,” explains Sterling resident Celia.

“We wanted to be mortgage free, and we were attracted to the idea of a set fee that wouldn’t change for our lifetime. We wanted care options – just in case one of us was to get sick – and we just wanted convenient access to the things we need.”

“We’ve found that at The Sterling. The doctor is five minutes’ walk up the road. The chemist is next door, and the dentist is next to that, so it’s great for us.”


Step 1: Make a plan
The earlier you start planning, the easier the big day will be when it ultimately arrives. Having a written-down checklist of what needs to be done will provide early clarity, help you stay on track when things get complicated, and help prevent unnecessary panic on the day.

A few elements that you might include on your checklist*

  • Packing up items you will take with you
  • Separating items that you’ll sell, donate or throw away – and getting rid of them
  • Researching and booking a moving company (more on that below)
  • Cancellation of newspaper delivery, telephone/internet/TV services, gas and electrical, and water supply to your home
  • Notifying relevant organisations about your change of address, including the post office, your bank, magazine subscriptions, insurance companies, and, of course, your friends and relatives!
  • Packing important documents and items that need to be kept close at hand: cash, passport and drivers’ licence, paperwork, house and car keys, glasses, phones and tablets, jewellery and sentimental items etc

*The above list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to moving into retirement village. For a more exhaustive guide, see The Retirement Villages Association of NZ’s Planning for living in a retirement village.


Step 2: Start packing
Packing up a whole house of possessions is a big job, so the earlier you start, the more enjoyable the decluttering process is likely to be.

Work through the rooms in your house one at a time, assigning all items into one of three categories: items to keep, items to sell or donate, and items to throw away. Use Trade Me or Facebook Marketplace to conveniently sell what you no longer need – just ensure that your conditions (particularly payment and delivery options) are convenient to you.

Clothes, unwanted furniture and knick-knacks of all descriptions are accepted by local charities, and for larger items, some groups will even come to your house to collect.

“I gave a lot of clothing, pots and crockery to charity,” says Diane. “It was a good opportunity to declutter. Honestly I had been dreading packing up,” she says. “My husband had died and I still had a lot of stuff that was very important to me.”

While it was a difficult experience, Diane says that, ultimately, it was a positive one.

“It ended up feeling good,” she says. “All of these things I owned could have another life. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it had been a cloud hanging over me. When it was done I just felt really good about it.”

“I thought it was going to be horrible, but facing it was actually a very good experience.”

Adrienne concurs. Packing up a houseful of memories can certainly be an emotional experience, but is often a very rewarding one too.

“Downsizing was a big part of the moving process for us,” says Adrienne. “Especially after so many years of hoarding!”

“It can be really emotional to let go of these things. All the residents I’ve talked to say the same thing”

“For us, the key was to put a bit of thought into it early on, and to expect it to take a little bit of time.”

“In the end we used Trade Me to sell a lot of stuff we no longer wanted. We were amazed at the response. We actually got a really good price for a lot of stuff.”

Protip: When packing up, keep a separate box of important things you’ll need close at hand on the day – a kettle, cups, medications, bedding, keys, important papers etc.


Step 3: Get recommendations for carriers
Not all moving companies are created equal. Talk to friends and family, and read online reviews before you make your selection, comparing removal companies for price, reliability and professionalism.

“When hiring a moving company, do your research,” warns Diane. “There’s huge variation between firms and some places are massively expensive – more than double the price of others.”

“I did my research and got a recommendation for a carrier that was good, and that gave me huge confidence,” says Diane. “The people I ended up using were fantastic and nothing was broken in the move.”

Just as home and contents insurance is a necessary part of home ownership, transit insurance is an optional (but important) part of relocating to a retirement village. Investigate the coverage offered by moving companies, or look for an independent provider, and make sure you receive written assurance of what’s covered.

“If you’re not working with a professional mover, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered,” advises Adrienne, “so make sure moving insurance is offered by the carrier.”

“Prices can vary by the thousands and the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best, so do your research and get quotes. You want to have peace of mind on the day, so my advice is to go with a reputable company.”

Pet Dog Sitting on Top of Cardboard Boxes


Step 4: Collect packing materials
Your mover will likely supply clean boxes for your move if asked, however you may want to get a headstart on the packing process, in which case, feel free to pick up surplus cardboard boxes from the supermarket – along with some packing tape and permanent markers for box labelling.


Step 5: Enlist the help of friends and family
Nothing beats the support of loved ones when you’re planning a big move. Friends and family are trustworthy parties with your best interest at heart. Not only can they help with the manual effort of moving (especially the young, strong ones), but if there’s something you’ve missed, friends and family can be your eyes and ears. If anything’s not right, missing or forgotten, they can step up and make sure you get moved in safe and sound with your possessions intact.

Tips for enlisting friend and family to help you move:

  • If you can organise your move for the weekend, friends and family will be more inclined (and available) to help.
  • Use your best manners when asking – moving a houseful of items is physically demanding and not everyone’s idea of a good time.
  • Spread the load: there’s strength in numbers, so try not to put too much burden on any one individual.
  • Not everyone can lift heavy weight – keep the slighter members of your circle busy with non-lifting duties, such as cleaning, labelling and organising.


Step 6: The day before the move
Almost there! The day before the move is your chance to take care of any last minute cleaning and tie up any loose ends. Now’s your chance to:

  • Empty rubbish bins
  • Defrost the freezer
  • If you haven’t hired a cleaner, use today to get as much of the final cleaning done as possible
  • Confirm delivery times with your removal company and arrival times with the village


The fewer surprises that happen on the big day, the better, so get in contact with the retirement village early, and let them know when the movers are due to arrive, when you’ll be there, and anything else you need to make the day run smoothly.

“Suzi [Cadigan – The Sterling, Kaiapoi’s Village General Manager] and The Sterling staff were wonderful,” says Diane. “We let her know that the carrier wanted to turn up first thing in the morning, and it wasn’t a problem at all. The Sterling team opened up my villa at 9 o’clock in the morning, and when we got there the place was warm and welcoming.”

“I could feel the stress just slip away.”

Celia agrees.

“Suzi and The Sterling were very proactive on everything,” she says. “They were constantly in touch with us every step of the way. We can’t speak highly enough of the staff at The Sterling. Even now if we need something, it’s just an email to Suzi. And I can’t believe how quick she can react.”


Step 7: The day of the move
Eat a good breakfast – it’s going to be a big day! Locate your box of important items and keep it with you.

  • On the day of the move there are bound to be some unexpected events, a little disorganisation, and perhaps even a breakage or two.
  • Breathe deep! Stress is an unavoidable part of any major life change, so, if you can, try to take a moment to decompress and relax once or twice throughout the day. Even one minute of a simple breathing exercise will make a difference.
  • Don’t rush the unpacking process – there’s no hurry. Just go at your own pace and do what you can to enjoy the process.
  • Show gratitude for friends and family that are helping you. At the end of the day, a cup of tea – and perhaps even a scone or two – should be enough for your debt to be considered repaid in full.


Step 8: Don’t forget the pets
Pets are very welcome at The Sterling (subject to approval by the village manager), however, the change in environment can take its toll on our furry companions.

So how can you best help your pet cope with moving?

  • Take your pet dog for a walk around the village a few days before you get there to help familiarise the animal with its new surroundings.
  • Bring any comfort items – such as blankets, toys etc – to occupy your pet while you’re busy moving
  • To avoid animals getting underfoot (and to mitigate flight risk) it may be wise to keep pets in cages during the actual moving-in times.
  • Offer lots of treats, lots of petting and gentle reassurance on the day of the move – it’s a big day for them too!


Step 9: Enjoy the fruits of your effort
So you’re all moved in and unpacked? Congratulations! You can now take a leisurely stroll around your new village to see the sights and familiarise yourself with your new neighbours and neighbourhood. You’re also free to just sit back and relax in your new villa, if you prefer. The choice is yours.

“I feel very lucky to have come here,” says Diane. “The Sterling is a kind, inclusive place and the people here are very caring and welcoming.”

“I’m really happy to be here and I know I’ve done the right thing.”