Our Story

The Idea Behind Creating Meander Cottages

Living The Dream

For some time now, Carol Symonds has realised it is not easy for some people growing older in the country with the fear one day they may need to move to another town. It is one of life’s heartbreaking challenges.

It may be 10 or 15 years away, hopefully longer, but because they can no longer maintain a big home or their family has moved to the city, they prepare for their last residential move. It is prevalent on Kangaroo Island and in small towns, and having been raised on a dairy farm in Parawa and lived in Yankalilla for most of her life, she has seen it first hand.

Meander Cottages - Community Centre 2b

Carol, and her husband Barry, who have been builders here for more than 30 years, have felt the impact on their community. In 2005, they felt so passionate about how the locals deserved to have a choice where to grow older that they built their own retirement village, Meander Cottages, in the heart of Yankalilla.

It is a business, of course, but those who know them say the foundation was built on compassion. They are in partnership with Gordon and Verity Baldock, and their son, Peter and his wife Tania.

“We observed that nearly all of our retired people were looking to move elsewhere, particularly particularly to Victor Harbor,” Carol said. “We thought, hang on, we would really like them to stay here.”

Meander Cottages - Community Centre 8b

They were members of the Yankalilla bowling club or golf club, or others who used the community library. They left our community and joined clubs in other towns where they had to go to live. There is still a lot of heartbreak when people leave, but I have always felt they need to do something for what is right for them.

“Some leave because of family, but understandably family members can also have very busy lives and perhaps staying in your community where your friends are is a better option. It is so important, but sometimes people have no choice. About 15 years ago we (Yankalilla) were given an excellent nursing home, which is a different level of care, and once again the people of the area do not have to leave to pass away. A country town needs this.


Meander Cottages - Community Centre 5b

“You hear of the heartbreak in so many country towns where a husband has needed to go into nursing care 100km away and the wife is left elsewhere. Their 60-year or so romance becomes a phone conversation or a weekly coffee meeting.

“It is a crying shame, not only for the people leaving but for the town. They are a valuable group; they retire with masses of a lifetime of knowledge.

“They are the people who volunteer in the area, who do all the good things. They are parents of people living in the area. We want them to remain a part of the community, and a valuable part like they always have been; it brings a strong sense of community when they stay.”

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Barry and Carol built 23 retirement cottages with the potential to extend to 37. There are currently 38 residents, and they don’t pretend it is anything but a small operation.

They also don’t talk about themselves, but having also built many homes in the region you know there must be an enormous sense of satisfaction in playing a small part in shaping a community.

Meander doesn’t have all the tennis courts and bowling greens of some villages, but according to Carol it works well with the town. “We have all the facilities and sporting opportunities in the community that we need, and that’s a good thing,” she said.


Meander Cottages - Community Centre 13b

“We encourage our residents to use them and establish links to support the local organisations and clubs. There is a need to remain an integral part of the community rather than being insular.

“Of course, this is our business, but I also see it as an important part of our community. If someone hasn’t got a community they create one within their own environment, which is usually the case at every retirement village.

“They have their security, and if they wish their community social calendar; the craft groups and any excuse for a barbie. We are a group of friends here in Yankalilla.”

Meander Cottages - Normanville Shopping Centre 1a

For the past four years Carol has also volunteered as a telephone counsellor at Lifeline, and she said that one of the first things you learn in the job was how pets played a pivotal part in the lives of people.

“Of course we allow them at Meander,” she said. “How awful to be told, oh sorry, your pet cannot come with you. I think we under estimate the impact grieving for a pet has on the lives of everyone, not just the elderly.

“For some, their pet is all they talk to, and imagine what it would be also like if they had to leave their pet behind in a small town.

Meander Cottages - Little Sister 1

“When I looked into the industry I had reservations, but as we have got more into this environment and met the people living here and the benefits they gain – and it’s not for everyone – I am a huge fan. It is about caring for them as a person and making their latter stage of life significant.

“We have had couples move in where the husband has wanted to be assured that his wife would be in a safe environment should she survive him. These people are usually on a fixed income or self-funded so they know exactly what it is going to cost them to live every year.

“They know they don’t have to worry about the hot water system becoming faulty, their house needing repainting or the carpets need replacing. There is comfort in that.”

Meander Cottages - Normanville Beach 2a

As with all retirement villages – which should not be confused with a residential village – legally Meander Cottages must abide by a very strict set of rules. If they are not followed or there is a problem within the village then residents have their own tribunal to which they can go.

The whole thing is geared towards 55-years-old-plus enjoying the peace and quiet of their home. They say is not always easy growing older, but when you remain part of a community you’re too busy living to worry about it.