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Golden years: Why many retirees choose to live in DB

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A number of residents make the decision to stay and grow old in DB. Sam Agars finds out what attracts retirees about living here, what concessions they have and what could be done to improve their quality of life.

When you think about Discovery Bay, more often than not young families and plenty of space to raise children and walk the dog come to mind. But the reality is that there are also a host of older people in DB, who have chosen to stay and retire here for surprisingly similar reasons.

Life is convenient in this corner of Lantau, with everything from groceries to medical services largely accessible. There are transport concessions and as far as Hong Kong goes, the cost of living is very competitive. What’s more, there is plenty to do for active old folks – think hiking and open spaces for walking – and organised activities for those eager to get amongst the community.

There’s always a flipside, however. Three DB retirees – Rani Gidwani, 87, Rosa Wong, 67, and Morgan Persson, 66 – elaborate on the pros and cons of DB living.

Ease of living

When talking to Rani, Rosa and Morgan, one word keeps cropping up and that is ‘convenience’. Whether it be the ease of accessing daily necessities or simply getting around, they can find little to fault with DB.

“You have shops, restaurants, bars and supermarkets. I love it here; it’s so clean and fresh but what can be a little bit boring sometimes, is that it is just too perfect. When I feel that way, I catch a ferry to see the real Hong Kong,” says Morgan, who has lived in DB with his wife for the past eight years.

Morgan also highlights the availability of medical care – the doctor and the dentist – as a plus, and says he finds the close proximity to North Lantau Hospital, which began services in September 2013, reassuring.

For Rani, who has lived in DB since December 1988, there really is no place she’d rather be. “I like all of DB. I have lived in many countries and places, and I wouldn’t like to live anywhere else. If I have a choice –‘ok, now you are retired, where do you want to live?’ – I would live in DB,” she says. “It’s very convenient, everything is available and there is very good transport.”

Likewise, Hong Kong-born Rosa, a six-year DB resident, says the resort has “all the major pros”. She suggests that the community could do with a nursing home but other than that she couldn’t be happier. She likes “the resort’s unique design, the extensive greenery and the fruit trees that provide oriental charm”.

As it turns out, Morgan, Rosa and Rani all own their own home. Morgan, who is originally from Sweden, says the fact that DB’s property market is slower than many parts of Hong Kong makes it an attractive option from a financial point of view.

Community engagement  

Retirement can be a challenging time of life, bringing with it boredom and a growing sense of isolation, but Morgan, Rani and Rosa all feel they have been spared this downside thanks to DB’s ‘small town’ set up. They speak of the plaza as a vibrant and inclusionary social hub, somewhere to hang out with friends or simply people-watch. Morgan says the enjoyment he gets from heading to the weekend markets adds to the overall DB experience.

Many DB retirees, meanwhile, look to [email protected], Hong Kong Resorts’ dedicated community caring and volunteering platform, as a way to meet people and stay active. Retirees can take part in DB-based programmes, like potted planting workshops and recycling projects, and in exercise classes, such as tai chi. Regular eco tours are provided across Lantau and beyond. Opportunities to volunteer at a number of these initiatives gives the elderly a chance to help others, and provides them with a sense of fulfilment they may not otherwise get.

Speaking more generally about the supportive nature of DB’s tight-knit community, Rosa says: “I appreciate the friendliness and care of everyone, especially to an elderly lady like me who lives alone.”

This was brought home to Rosa after she lost consciousness near the main ferry pier back in June.

There residents immediately went to her aide, helping her up and making sure she was ok, something she says she will be forever grateful for. “The DB ambulance arrived promptly, after just a few minutes,” she recalls, with a smile.

Getting about

While Hong Kong is not the cheapest place to live, Discovery Bay is certainly a lot more affordable than a lot of areas in the territory, especially when you consider its location and the services at arms’ reach.

Concessions for transport – most of which kick in at the age of 65 – are impressive. The costly ferry ride is taken out of the equation, since, for retirees, a one-way ferry fare to Central costs only HK$2, a major discount on the standard HK$40. Also, bus fares are capped at HK$2 for those using an elderly Octopus card, and retirees travel for free on Sundays within DB.

Rosa is hopeful that one day taxis will be able to bring passengers all the way into DB, but she praises the bus services for making her life as easy as possible. “The daily bus services are frequent enough, so I don’t need my golf cart much,” she says. “The drivers are so polite, asking me to sit down before paying. On which bus route outside Discovery Bay could we find such politeness?”

The door-to-door service provided by DB hire cars is obviously another real boon for retirees. Rani, who suffers from knee trouble, does say she has trouble boarding hire cars due to their height, but this is one of the few faults she can find with DB living.

Care and support

On top of all of this, Hong Kong and DB are enticing holiday destinations, ensuring that retirees who live away from family and friends have frequent visitors.

With grown-up children back in Sweden, Morgan thanks the vibrancy of DB for ensuring he still gets to see his family regularly. “I invite them down here and they don’t have any objections to coming because it is really beautiful and there is so much to see in Hong Kong,” he says.

Rani sees a similar trend to Morgan when it comes to keeping up with family and friends. “We are originally from New York and my friends come and visit here and they love it,” she says. What’s more, with two sons and two grandchildren living in DB, Rani is enjoying her golden years in the bosom of her family. “I don’t have to worry about anything, my children won’t let me,” she says.

With family living on Hong Kong side, Rosa finds herself in a similar situation. She regularly babysits for her one-year-old grandchild, and her 93-year-old aunt, who lives in a nursing home in Shatin, enjoys the occasional ‘vacation’ in DB.

When discussing their retirement, all three DBers stress how much they benefit from the care and companionship of their helpers. As Rani says: “My helper, Noel, takes such good and loving care of me. He has been with us since 2006 and is very much a part of our family. He takes care of me as he would his own mother.”

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