Living in a retirement village serviced apartment maintains independence for go-getter.

For most of her life Edna Silk has been her own boss.

Not that she had a lot of choice. For years the Nelson woman, now 86, raised a young family while helping run a service station business with her late husband in Ngahere, a remote township about 21km inland from Greymouth on the South Island's west coast.

"We lived next door to the garage and I would pour petrol at all hours of the day," she says. "Whenever anyone wanted petrol they would ring a bell; I was constantly back-and-forth from the house."

Tragedy struck when her husband died (her son was 15 and her daughter 11) and she spent the next 13 years on her own.

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"I was very independent and used to being my own boss," she says. "But I had to be when I was by myself with the children."

Independence is still important to Silk, more so since moving from her home in Tauranga to a Summerset serviced apartment almost two years ago - one of 22 villages the company operates throughout New Zealand including four in Auckland at Ellerslie, Hobsonville, Manukau and Karaka.

At first reluctant to make the move, Silk absolutely loves the lifestyle, keeping her independence and herself on the go.

She has hardly slowed down even with a walker; she loves the entertainment put on by the village - especially movie night on Mondays - goes for regular walks, and likes to play cards with other residents.

"I still cook," she says. "I make my own breakfasts and evening meals, but go to the dining room a couple of times a week for a midday meal.

"My serviced apartment is comfortable, modern and airy with big windows; everything about it is top notch and I come and go as I please.

"I couldn't cope with a big house now and I was lonely living on my own. I'd talk to people on the phone and I knew my neighbour, but it's not the same as having people to talk to every day like I can here."

"My son and daughter tried to convince me to move into a place like this much earlier but I wasn't keen, I didn't feel I needed to be here, I still wanted to be independent."
But after losing her driver's licence due to a medical problem, she felt she had no choice - and has been impressed by the benefits of living in the village and how easy it has been to make friends.

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"I just walked into the dining room and said 'hello, I'm Edna'. Everybody is really friendly and the staff do everything they can for you; you can be as friendly or private as you want but still have the best facilities and the advantage of help if you need it."

"We love having Edna as part of our community and seeing her friendly face around the village," says Summerset's head of clinical services and operations Pam Walker.

Walker says serviced apartments are ideal for people who, although not ready for full-time care, need more help.

"Our residents keep their independence while receiving a little bit of support right up to rest home-level care without having to move as needs change" she says. "In a serviced apartment they no longer have to worry about things like cleaning or changing the bed.
"But at the same time it is their own home with their furniture, pictures and knick-knacks."

All the apartments have an emergency call bell system monitored 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

The Summerset Group has over 4,400 residents in 22 villages completed or in development across New Zealand and has six other sites earmarked for development including St Johns and Parnell in Auckland.

For more information call 0800 786 637.