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There’s a classic cartoon in which an elderly man, clearly some way from his prime, is laid back in an armchair doing a crossword. With a furrowed brow he calls out to his wife: “Honey, I need a seven-letter word for catatonic.”

His wife thinks hard for a moment, and calls back:

“Try R. E. T. I. R. E. D.

Of the many misconceptions about retirement – when it should be done, what it should look like – one of the more pervasive is the notion that retirement is necessarily a process of reduction: a well-deserved winding down after decades spent on hard work.

But there’s a new trend in retirement on Australia’s east coast that is quickly dismantling the cartoonish stereotype of retirees idling about in community villages. No more Hawaiian shirts. No more bridge club. A huge number of retirees are embracing a particular type of sea-change retirement that, according to several of its fans, involves trading a lifestyle of work for a lifestyle of play.

We spoke to three couples who are residents of Harrington Waters, a hidden gem on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales, where a community of like-minded residents are being drawn to this unique style of living.

Margaret Spours, who lives in Harrington Waters with her husband Stan, radiates positive energy when she talks about her new home:

“Oh, we moved here not to sit in the home and watch TV,” she says, smiling.

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“We want to be out! Outside – down at the beach or walking along the river. Living on Harrington Waters, you can basically walk to everything, and that’s what really attracted us. My husband’s a golfer, so he’s a member of the Golf Club. And me, I love walking along the Riverwalk and to the other parts of Harrington Waters – it’s nice flat, scenic walks, with stunning sunsets. And when our family comes up to visit, it’s nice to go to the beach and explore around Crowdy Head, the beaches, even whale and dolphin spotting.”

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The distinctive lifestyle offered by Harrington Waters is made possible by Roche Group, one of Australia’s premier development companies with more than 20 years of experience. The waterside community has been deliberately conceived as an offering unlike anything else in Australia, offering a one-of-a-kind lifestyle for the recently retired. This is an area where you’re more likely to see rock fishing than rocking chairs, and friendly neighbours that embrace an active, fun-filled lifestyle, surrounded by an award-winning golf course, shopping village, cafés, a medical centre, newsagency, bakery, Harrigan’s Irish Pub, community centre, library, national parks, Crowdy Head Beach and more.

“There’s just a genuine village feeling,” says resident Adrian McCallister, a retired university teacher who moved to Harrington Waters six months ago with his wife, Annette.

“Something about it’s very peaceful and open, so we can do a lot. It’s where the Manning River meets the ocean, so we can stroll along the beaches, or we can walk over near the river. It’s just very enjoyable and relaxing. There’s a sense of connection in the community village, neighbours become close friends. Bowling is very popular, and golf, even tennis.”

Annette adds in, “…also fishing, boating, biking. And you see dolphins and turtles while walking along the sea wall. There’s so much activity.”

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