Alan Henry Smith

It might be vertical, but it’s still a village.

31st January 2019

Alan looks back on moving from his bungalow to an apartment in this new ‘vertical village’.

So Alan, tell us about how you came to live in Bournville Gardens.

I’d been living on my own for some three years and health problems were limiting my ability to maintain the bungalow and gardens. My younger daughter was receiving information about ExtraCare properties, which she passed to me. One of the brochures featured the Bournville Gardens development. I read it and said to her, ‘if you will come with me, we’ll go to the briefing meeting’. The rest is history.

At that meeting, what attracted you?

Due to my wife’s illness I had been to many properties operated by other companies and these were basically ‘care homes’. Whereas, Bournville Gardens would be more like the village I had lived in for some 30 years, but with care support on hand when needed.

Now that you’re here, does it feel like home?

It does. After about two weeks I was walking downstairs with the ExtraCare manager and said to her “I’m at home”. It’s that feeling of having one’s own space when I wish, but with all the support one may need.

So home, for you, means having security?

Very much so. I’ve got respiratory problems and some two years ago I had an exacerbation of that late one evening. So I called the care team and they were quickly with me, recognised how unwell I was, called an ambulance and I then spent three days in hospital. That support reinforces why it’s so good to be here.

And, how have you made your space feel like your own?

It was a blank canvas so I was able to furnish it to suit my tastes and needs. For example, in the lounge I have a built-in bookcase and desk area which suits my love of reading and my occasional work as a technical author. After three years, it still feels right.

The owls with other ornaments and pictures represent the interests of both my wife and myself. So, whilst being part of my past, they are also an important part of my present and future. That sense of continuity matters.

Can you describe the community here?

It’s difficult to put a precise definition on it. I tend to say to people who come in and make enquiries, ‘it might be vertical, but it’s still a village’. Independent living does resemble a village but, one does not feel alone because there are so many activities in which one can participate.

Over the past year staff have supported the development of many interest groups and we have a wide range of speakers and musicians giving performances. There’s also a wide range of volunteer roles open to residents.

However, we have to accept that there is often a twig dropping off the tree and that can be hard. It has been hard for me recently, because John died. He lived two doors away and did the Friday shift on reception with me.

I’m sorry to hear that Alan. But your volunteer work helps to build up a community for you?

Oh indeed, yes. It’s great because one is often able to help with queries at reception. We ensure that visitors and couriers are suitably advised and directed. Over time one interacts with members of staff, other residents, visitors and various couriers who then become acquaintances. And amongst them some become true friends.

And finally, are you happy here?

Well, I’m very content here. Really, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.