A visit to Bridge House of Twyford
PUBLISHED: 16:09 27 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:09 27 January 2017
Are you talking about me? Jan Raycroft skips down the road to somewhere she'd be very welcome… and it's near the pubs
Can it really be that me, a woman who danced on tables at Henry’s nightclub in Burnham Beeches and shimmied on to the floor at Skindles is now being offered – by an attractive young chap – the ‘amenity seat’ for the elderly or handicapped on the Circle line?
And why is Indy, our handsome and charming local pharmacist, quietly explaining: “No, keep your money – you don’t have to pay for prescriptions any more”? It’s the most embarrassing conversation I’ve ever had in the chemists.
Oh, it’s tough being a Baby Boomer these days. Everyone said we were a ‘power generation’ (not that we needed to be told). Now we are to blame for Brexit, making money, even bolting on the inherited stiff backbones of our parents who grew up in the Second World War era. And 2016 was a shocker of a year, what with the loss of both David Bowie and Prince, megastars of our era.
What are you supposed to do when demographic experts who could be your children appear on the TV news and start pointing the finger at a generation that might be the first one to have longer average lives than the next one coming along? Curl up and die? It’s just not our way when tickets to punk rockers The Damned 40th Anniversary Tour are on sale.
Who are the supposed experts talking about when they rattle on about facing a future crisis in elderly care? It must be our parents and aunties, surely, many of whom are still with us, popping to the shops and digging gardens in their 80s and 90s. Their own longevity and modern healthcare has enabled us Boomers to squidge into our jeans, ‘stay down with the kids’, stick our fingers in our ears and cling on to our special status for as long as possible.
Memories for me include my granny wobbling along Bournemouth beach clutching ice creams and her handbag. She seemed ancient, but was actually younger then than I am now. We are good at so many things – especially blanking the reality that our own lives will come to an end, so stuff such as making wills is often put on the back burner. As is where, and how, we will live when the millions of us can no longer pretend we are not the oldies and need a bit more help.
At the moment many of us are psychologically cushioned by the fact that we often live in what was once rare but is now fairly common – four-generation families. We lead busy lives, holding down jobs until we get bored with them, driving grandchildren to ballet and keeping an eye on the independent but increasingly frail generation above.
When we do talk at the dinner table about care homes or supported living the discussion tends to centre on other people, not ourselves of course. It’s a subject swerved, so it was with some trepidation I headed down the road in Twyford to visit Bridge House – and by chance on one of those dreaded birthdays beginning with a 6 that I now studiously ignore.
Living in the village, I knew there was a highly respected nursing home there in a Grade II listed building, close to a recent development of attractive cottages, built under the guidance of English Heritage so that they fit perfectly with the village’s historic street scene. Near to the River Loddon, it’s just the sort of place us perky young things might choose if planning a move.
What had passed me by until then was that the cottages actually include luxurious apartments in what is an outstanding mix of properties offering superb choices, from independent or assisted living to the actual care home itself, all just for the over 60s. That word independent should perhaps have a capital ‘I’ because it soon became clear that the clever people who are moving to this retirement development are getting the best of both worlds. The first batch are already occupied and more are on the way.
You can live here going about your business with just the usual polite contact with neighbours. If you need a little more support, then the friendly experts of the care home are ‘just across the way’ and happy to have their brains picked on anything from the local shopping to medical facilities. That’s handy whether you are new to the area or just a bit under the weather and welcome some help.
Just how much of the assisted living services you buy into is up to you and, of course, our needs can change over time. And in the care home itself a spacious and well-appointed ground floor room is given over to the residents of the cottages to use for social and community gatherings, should they so wish.
It’s an ingenious solution that can take you through 10, 20, 30 years or more. Showing me round the Bridge House development was Director Amar Sheikh. We started with the care home itself, and there’s an interesting story here.
The original premises, in a Georgian period house, spent a century in the ownership of the noted Verey family – there’s a Verey Close at Broad Hinton – and a very careful restoration project will be completed in early 2017, so that it may continue to provide an elegant home for the most frail and those with conditions such as dementia.
But it’s matched in modern elegance by the new premises nearest to the cottages and apartments. The care home residents live in stunning and spacious rooms, enjoying as much or as little privacy as they wish. There’s an easily-accessed outdoor sun trap spot which would satisfy any ‘A lister’ with its views, along with the 5 star hotel feel of individual rooms and corridors.
Back outside, we took a look at one of the apartments aimed at people like me who expect to have their own door to lock when out in one of the local pubs (handily, The Duke of Wellington is just across and along the road), filling a basket at the Waitrose, or heading for the nearby train station for a jaunt in the capital or trip to Newbury Racecourse.
Maybe I’m getting old(!) but much as I looked for tell-tale signs that this was ‘elderly accommodation’ all I could see was a very swish apartment with the ideal spare room to share between a home office and visits by the granddaughter.
What struck me is that first class retirement living like this is a solution to so many issues, not least that feeling of security that comes from making a sensible decision, when really we’d like to be on the back of a Harley Davidson without a helmet, perhaps steered by David Beckham, who is also getting on a bit.
Modern life means that so many of us no longer live a couple of streets from our nearest relatives, but sometimes hundreds of miles or even a continent. Our careers or their own jobs and lifestyles can create distances even before we’ve dealt with that desire to retain as much independence at possible. The last thing we want to be is a worry or burden to them, or create too much fuss.
What’s clear is that places like Bridge House are a solution not just for now, but for the years ahead when we finally get to bore a generation still to come with the stories of our nightclub exploits.
Find out more at bridgehouseoftwyford.co.uk.