Pioneers in Retirement Living

It’s no idle boast. Over thirty years ago, two men shared a visionary belief in a new way of retirement living. You can see it today in every aspect of Newlands of Stow and sister retirement community Bridge House of Twyford. Battling against a patchwork of disjointed government and commercial thinking, planning and building, they trod their own path to bring their pioneering ideas to fruition. It makes sense to let Amar, one of the founding directors, tell you how.

To start our story we have to track back to the post war years. During the 60s and 70s there was no regulatory framework and the government-built care homes were run by the local authorities. In 1984 the Registered Homes Act was introduced, which has since evolved to become the Care Standards Act. People were starting to live longer. There was a need for more development to cater for them and it had started to become a recognised sector. So the Registered Homes Act gave a regulatory framework and effectively fired the gun for private care for older people who needed it and could access it. It was not an extension of the NHS.

We would our own families want? 
My fellow director, Momin and I were involved in an extended family property business. We saw a site that had potential for a care home and marketeers were few and far between at that time. We sat down and took the idea of developing something for older people and it related back to our own families’ needs. What was happening at that time may be right and relevant but project that forward say twenty years. What would they realistically need and want? We started to explore what that could look like and examined examples from abroad.

We researched the typical residential profiles of those who ended up in care homes. Many of these were married couples who naturally wanted to be together – one of them maybe needed no care whereas the other needed escalating levels of care but married life would come to an end if you couldn’t accommodate them. So we began to see that there was a need for this.

By 1988 we had conducted sufficient research and found a site in Oxfordshire. The initial development was a care home with six retirement cottages. It was the start of making our ideas a reality. Then, during the processes of constructing that development, we found the Newlands site in the following year.

Creating our vision for the future 
As I’ve detailed in our article celebrating the 30th anniversary of Newlands, both Momin and I found the immaculate landscaped grounds of Newlands and the warm, welcoming ambience of the house itself truly remarkable. It evoked an emotion like it was almost wrapping its arms around you, offering a refuge from the outside world. In this rather
magical setting, our wish was to create a great care home with the potential of some external building for independent living.

A first in retirement living 
We faced a huge task to secure planning permission and convince the committees and the community that we could bring forth our vision. In fact it took nearly 18 months before we were finally done and dusted. That was because it was the very first planning application that set out retirement living in the way that we had envisioned. Newlands was the first site with a care home and thirty to forty, ‘close care’ as they were called at the time, adjacent cottages and apartments. It forged new ground in the contemporary history of retirement villages. Even the financial institutions had never seen anything like it before.

And that was just the start of it all.

In 1991 we opened our doors with our small twelve-bed Nursing Home in the converted country house. Every single room was more than twenty square metres. This was more than twice the size of the government requirements of the day and twice the size of what others had even considered.
It set our vision as to what we saw was the future of what people would want to buy in terms of providing for their retirement and how they wanted to live in later life.

Spacious living 
We implemented the next stage of our vision in 1997/8 with fifteen hand-built traditional Cotswold stone cottages. Again we went against convention and each property was bespoke to individual requirements and offered truly spacious living. Room for your upright piano, space to relax, entertain, live the life you’re accustomed to – a novel idea at the time.

Each property was also linked to Newlands Nursing Home so that it could offer connectivity to full 24-hour nursing care and emergency assistance if required – all of it just a few yards away from any residence. It meant that those in the Stow/Cotswolds area who were maybe under occupying their present homes could move closer to services yet retain their independence in their later years.

Bespoke individuality 
From 1999 to 2009 we took our pioneering stance to the next stage when we completed the remaining phase of building our apartments. We listened to what features people told us they wanted and incorporated them.

Now some 20 years later we are still engaged in keeping everything relevant for the future and ensuring that individuality is never eroded. Everything can be just as bespoke as you wish. Want a new kitchen or decor for your cottage? Like a total refurbishment before selling or buying but would find it difficult to implement without help? Just ask us. You only have to watch the staggering number of highly individual breakfasts that hot foot it out of our kitchen every morning to see the lengths we go to.

Right from the start we were committed to pioneering a better path in retirement living. And we’ve remained true to our course. We’ve stayed small and independent which means we get to know your exact needs and that’s a rare commodity even now.

The right staff, the best care 
We can talk about our vision and our pioneering beliefs. While the incredible beauty of Newlands and its surroundings speaks for itself. However all of this would hold no sway without the warmth of experience, the quality of service and the unstinting professionalism of our local staff. They are the true heart of Newlands. They work night and day to ensure our high standard of care is maintained along with our reputation, and we are justly proud of them. After all, they work with us, not just for us.