ABBEYFIELD

When I started my nomadic journey, if you remember, I was looking for what I called Betty’s Mountain Top. My concept was to find a facility that as I age I may want to be a part of. It would have to have access in some way to all ages and my main want, is good conversation around the dinner table with people from around the globe. As I have travelled I have found numerous projects, and I have looked at many all over the world. I have not been impressed. It has nothing to do with the structure and how fancy, or posh it is, it has to do with the quality of care and how relaxed and happy the residents seem. I remember very many years ago looking for home for my Mother. It was very difficult and the one thing that I hate to see is wheelchairs lined up outside or inside with residents that have blank stares, that is very sad. I saw this years ago and you still see that today.

I attended a book launch in London for my friend Jenny’s book that dealt with relationships in care homes and how important they are for the wellbeing of the residents. Jenny had spent time researching a group called Abbeyfield. They own and operate about 100 facilities in the UK. I became interested in what I heard so I made contact in the south of the UK and was invited to Lochs Heath in Swanwick, which was arranged by a former Board Member for me.

Lochs Heath has 16 residents, of numerous ages, some are mentally challenged; others have dementia; some just seem to feel very comfortable there.

The staff led by Neil, was just caring in every way and it wasn’t put on, they just had patience, and compassion in every situation. I was there for over 4 hours! I spent an hour without staff just chatting with residents about their background, health and what they thought of spending rest of their life in this facility. Whenever they talked about this place, they would have a big smile on their face. THEY WERE HAPPY.

They each had their own flat in the building. The ones I saw had a sitting room, a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. They were a very good size with lots of windows overlooking the garden.

For me, this location wasn’t on the sea or on mountain top, but in terms of requirements, it ticked most of the boxes, involvement from the community, the community would just drop in to say hi, or bring treats for the residents, bring in new movie etc. The residents were living independent lives within this structure, good healthy food and even a glass of sherry or wine at lunch.

Lochs Heath is a very special model!

To Neil, staff and the residents thank you a most lovely visit!

3 thoughts on “ABBEYFIELD

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  1. Betty, this community model looks like a loose approximation of what my daughter says she is looking for when she gets to that point in time. She is looking for a modern beguinage-type community where single and married adults of retirement age and lively intellect live interdependently and engage with each other every day, in a common area. She too is interested in great conversation around a dinner table, which is easier to do if you live in a purposely designed and chosen community.

    A few years ago, the two of us visited a historic beguinage in Bruges–a collection of delightful, hobbit-like, self-contained huts grouped alongside a beautiful treed green space, with a larger convent building across the green acting as an anchor. Nowadays, these small apartments are still lived in, possibly by retired nuns of the Benedictine order that currently oversees the beguinage complex. As many people know, the original beguines were determined single women who, in a tight-knit 12th-century society that did not know what else to allow them to do, maintained a hard-won and precarious independence by acting as caregivers to the community at large. They were not a religious order exactly, but all beguinages operated in safety only because religious sensibility operated within each of them.

    The physical layout of the beguinage seemed so practical for interdependent living that I wondered why it hadn’t been used more by developers as a retirement model. Perhaps it has been, somewhere. At any rate, Betty, I hope your lengthy journey culminates in such a place for you and others.

  2. Simon’s mother was in an Abbeyfield home in Bradford-on-Avon, very nice place it was too.Bx Briony Bax Editor, Ambit Magazine www.ambitmagazine.co.uk  Poetry Editor, The New Europeanwww.theneweuropean.co.uk

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