Jamie Bunce How would you describe the Inspired Villages model?
Rather than old age being a time when people struggle through years of illness, we aim to reduce residents’ physical – as opposed to chronological – age, helping them genuinely enjoy their later years. Our strapline poses the question: “The best years of your life?” Our goal is to keep residents active and well – socially, physically, mentally and financially. This allows them to look after themselves, in the comfort of their own homes, for a lot longer than they probably would if they were living in a traditional, open market house. Ours is a lifestyle business: every village has a gym, studio, sauna, steamroom, swimming pools, restaurants, cafés, bars, meeting spaces and libraries. Access to all of that is included in our package. Customers do pay for meals and drinks out though. Importantly, we see ourselves as being caring, not carers. Our villages are not care homes nor gated communities: residents and guests are allowed to come and go as they please, at least in normal times. They live their own lives, on their own terms. We’re there if they need us, and we do have some assisted living as well as palliative care for those who already live with us: we can look after people in their own homes for as long as it’s safe for us to do so. But our primary focus is on people’s health and wellbeing. That’s good for the NHS, for social care, for society – but most importantly, it’s absolutely excellent for the individual, because they feel better about themselves and they get more out of life.
August 2020 ©Cybertrek 2020
Inspired Villages talks to Kate Cracknell about wellbeing-focused communities and handling the COVID-19 crisis What’s your background?
I’ve come from a retail background and interestingly, I would say the mechanics of retail are very similar to those of retirement villages. You need to create environments people are really proud to live in, that people want to visit and revisit, where people like to spend time. You also need a very strong operating business that helps deliver service excellence – the sort of standards you would expect from a high-quality hotel. Because our residents are like hotel residents, except they spend on average eight to 10 years with us; hotel residents will typically spend a few nights in a hotel.
What has been the Inspired Villages story so far?
In 2010, myself and three colleagues founded our first retirement operating business. We worked with landowners and other parties to come into the sector, developing villages for other organisations as well as optioning sites for ourselves. We also had a joint venture with Places for People, developing villages at Austin Heath and Gifford Lee. A pivotal moment came in August 2017, when Legal & General purchased our company and those two sites at Austin Heath and Gifford Lee. We shared a vision with Legal & General – to deliver a much-needed solution to people as they age, an independent living model that was distinctly lacking in the UK – and we formed a partnership to create our retirement communities.
PHOTO: INSPIRED VILLAGES
Jamie Bunce is developing the wellness retirement village model in the UK
The CEO of retirement village operator