Living it up in a Tel Aviv retirement community.

nice retirement home 88 248 (photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
nice retirement home 88 248
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
'Sheltered accommodation." I don't know about you, but for me the expression conjures up old people shuffling around in carpet slippers, dour matrons maintaining discipline and a smell of disinfectant wafting down white-tiled corridors. So meeting Pearl and Ian Rogov and being shown around their delightful three-room apartment in Ahuzat Tzahala, just on the borders of Tel Aviv, came as a pleasant surprise. Their grandchildren say they live in a place that looks like Club Med. The amenities are superb - and the 70 square meters they have now have somehow absorbed whatever they could keep and fit in from their large Jerusalem apartment without looking in the least cluttered. "Of course we had to get rid of a lot of furniture," says Pearl, who with Ian made aliya from South Africa in 1959. "When we told the three children we were downsizing to sheltered housing, they didn't believe us and didn't want to take any of our things. But when they saw we were serious we were able to give some things away." They kept a few antique pieces that had made aliya with them and found a solution to the 2,000 books they needed to dispose of by giving them to a nonprofit. So after a lifetime in Jerusalem, what made them decide to move to Tel Aviv? "Well," she says with a smile, "we'd heard so much about the city that never sleeps, we wanted to try something new before it's too late." But there were other, more practical reasons. "It's near the children and we can help out, driving the grandchildren to afternoon lessons and such," adds Ian. Also as they are originally from Cape Town they always missed not being near the sea. Pearl is 70 and Ian 72. They consciously decided to move to a retirement home while they could still enjoy all the facilities before, as they put it, they became too decrepit to take advantage of them. They chose the apartment while the building was still in the planning stage, and when Pearl heard it was going to be three rooms, she felt she could manage with the space. "Then I saw how small they are and I nearly fainted," she says. "I told Ian I wasn't moving in." "Empty rooms always look small," says Ian, who worked in public relations before his retirement. "But once the furniture was in, we found we could manage fine with the space." They made some slight adjustments to the standard apartment. They brought in a carpenter who built several additions to make the place more comfortable. In the kitchen they added a small island for extra workspace plus storage. He also built a wooden divider at the front door so the refrigerator was not seen jutting out into the lounge, and a sideboard for the china that survived the move. The off-white couch was built to their specifications to fit exactly the space available, while for the dining area they chose an expandable glass table to give an airy effect. They like the fact that the entire apartment is full of windows looking out on to their pretty private garden. For them it's as if in each frame they see a different picture. The garden, which is slightly bigger than the other residents' because they have a corner site, is an extension of their living space. It is furnished with modular tiled tables which they can group to seat the entire family when they come to visit. The tiny bit of lawn is actually synthetic but looks amazingly real. Besides the living area there are two more rooms, a master bedroom with its own bathroom (although furnished only with a shower, no tubs allowed for safety reasons) and a study which they adapted by removing some of the wall closets to create a niche where they have installed a bed for visiting grandchildren. Being in sheltered housing means that every morning when you get up you have to press a wall button "to show that you are alive and kicking," says Ian with a big smile. In every room there are distress buttons on the walls. The outside facilities are unbelievable. A state-of-the-art gym, an Olympic pool, lecture rooms, a library furnished in tasteful brown leather, a restaurant, beauty salon, gardens with flowing fountains, a coffee bar with free tea and coffee all day long. "You don't need to set foot outside the front door," says Ian. At the entrance to every apartment is a glass display case where the residents can put their precious things on display. The Rogovs tell me that the idea of moving to a retirement home began germinating in their minds 20 years ago when their own very elderly parents came here and they could not find a good solution for one in particular. "Everything fell on our shoulders," Pearl remembers. "We decided then we would never be a burden to our children. And this place is the solution." Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: