A new retirement village with its range of communal facilities is the start of a new community for older people. Typically comprising around 250 apartments, a village hall, a shop, restaurant, bar, coffee lounge, library, craft room, computer suite, fitness centre, greenhouse and outdoor courtyards, sitting areas and a bowling green. It will have a team of hospitality and care staff, a wellbeing nurse, a fitness instructor, an admin team, an activities/volunteer coordinator and probably a dementia specialist. It is a bigger and better resource than would generally be available in a local neighbourhood.
It is important that the retirement village does not become a ” gated community” insulated from it local surroundings. With its wide range of facilities and its qualified staff team, it can make a positive contribution to the whole of the neighbourhood in which its located. It can also specifically reach out to older people with a supportive service that can enable them to live in their own homes in the community.
The most obvious thing the village team can do is to provide an outreach domiciliary care team for those older people with care needs who still live in their own home near to the village. The village restaurant could also provide a “meals on wheels” service to those people who can’t come into the village.
The village’s focus on good health can be extended into the community by inviting them to take part in the well being programme provided by a qualified nurse. In turn for some people this could be linked to a health improvement programme using the village’s fitness centre. Rehabilitation programmes after hospital stays or falls at home, could also be provided by this team in association with their GP.
All the village facilities would be available to everyone of all ages in the surrounding community for a small annual membership fee.
Another key feature of the village is that it should provide “a bridge between generations”, the following are some examples within my own experience, particularly with the ExtraCare Charitable Trusts of how this can be accomplished:-
- The local nursery/primary school could access a village full of “grannies and grandpas”.
- The secondary school could provide a host of “apprentice work experience” for students who are considering a career in social care. Projects could include researching residents’ lives and building a “book of life” for older people; outward bound courses for young and old together; gadget training in exchange for cookery classes; retired teachers could do one-to-one coaching on reading, maths etc.
- If there are higher education, colleges or universities in the local area, their students could get volunteering experience by providing one-to-one support with new technology.
It is not the intention that the retirement village replaces existing voluntary activity groups in the surrounding community. Rather, it would be the intention to enhance the existing groups and make sure they are accessible who lives in the village. Small, local voluntary organisations are often hard pressed for funds and volunteers, the retirement village has the potential to provide both.
Outreach into the community is not an easy thing to do because the village manager and their team understandably make the residents who live in the village their first priority. Equally, many residents are content to stay in the village where they feel “safe and secure”. However, if the village is to remain a vibrant part of the surrounding neighbourhood, it’s everyone’s job in the village to think beyond the walls. Some good examples of this are:-
- Residents supporting local charities where they have a personal interest.
- Residents donating surplus goods to charity shops when they first move into the village.
- Residents acting as volunteers in local community groups.
- The voluntary groups themselves extending their services into the village and making use of the village facilities.
My post next week will discuss the final aspect of retirement villages which is the management team. Thereafter I will draw all these threads together in a final post on this subject.