I feel inclined to carefully wipe my feet as I enter Oceania’s newest addition, Eden Lifestyle Care & Village, well-positioned in the heart of Auckland’s Mt Eden. It has only been open for a matter of weeks, and everything, from its perfectly decorated Christmas trees to its beautiful furnishings and deco, glistens with newness.

In actual fact, the facility – or at least the building it occupies – has a long and rich history in aged care delivery. I learn this as I sit in the Gilroy Lounge, aptly named after a trunk recovered during the renovation process, and lovingly restored. The wall features pictures of the original home, Eventide Home (and later, Resthaven), originally run by the Salvation Army. Interestingly, despite a complete rebuild, the floorplan is largely the same as the original.

I learn all this from Jonathan Leet, who, along with manager Ainslie Sutherland, has played a vital role in getting Oceania’s newest venture off the ground. They worked together at Oceania’s Lady Allum Rest home in Milford. Ainslie had been the development manager for the new Eden facility for two years before she appointed Jonathan.

I sense a real pride in the place, as Jonathan shows me around the plush lounges, restaurant staffed with a top chef, cafe, small shop, salon and spa.

But there appears to be a vital ingredient missing – residents, although granted it is a rainy Saturday morning; I imagine they are keeping to their rooms. Ainslie informs me that it is a feature of the Assisted Living Suites that at certain times during the day residents feel like they are in their own home and potter around in their space.

It is also just five weeks since Eden Lifestyle opened, so it is to be expected that resident numbers are low.

The care facility, which has 67 care suites, currently has eight residents – six at rest-home level and two at hospital level. There are 12 residents so far in the 40 living apartments which comprise the adjoining village.

It is early days indeed, but Ainslie and Jonathan are optimistic about the facility’s potential.

Eden Lifestyle is offering care under a new model in New Zealand – care suites are purchased under an occupational right agreement (ORA), which has traditionally been the sole domain of retirement villas or apartments.

“Everyone is watching us to see how the new model works,” says Jonathan.

The ORA model for care suites was not adopted lightly and was the result of extensive research conducted by Ainslie on different models of care around the world.

It isn’t hard to see how such a model will suit the demographic – in a broader sense (the cashed up baby boomers) and in a local sense (those who are accustomed to the pricey real estate and lifestyle of Mt Eden, Epsom and nearby Newmarket).

As if to confirm this, Jonathan tells me that the most expensive suites were sold first. The suites range in price from $159,000 to $389,000 depending on size, outlook, and a range of factors. The ones I looked around were certainly lovely, featuring a kitchenette, ensuite bathroom, and lounge area. They are vastly different from the cramped rooms with shared bathrooms of many rest homes – but then they are vastly more expensive. Around 20 per cent of the suites can accommodate couples. On the other hand, the facility doesn’t accommodate short-term stays or offer respite care. There is no secure dementia facility.

The small number of residents at present is actually an advantage when it comes to activities, as these can be tailored to exactly what the residents want to do.

Jonathan tells me that choice will always be a key ingredient at Eden Village. I can see how choice is reflected in the design and the processes in place. For instance, there is a two-hour window for meals, rather than one sitting. And if the main lounge and dining room are too busy or noisy for the residents, there are smaller, quieter lounge and dining areas dotted all over, to accommodate their needs.

“One of our residents likes breakfast in her suite at 10am, and it is our pleasure to accommodate that request,” says Ainslie.

Through the doors we go, and we are soon in the village part of the complex, where the living apartments can be found – many with extraordinary views across Auckland. It doesn’t surprise me to learn but Jonathan that he has shown many younger people around, only to learn they were looking for themselves and not an older family member! Residents must be at least 70 years old. The apartments range from $299,000 to $650,000.

The ones I am shown are dressed to meticulous show-room standard, modern and minimalist. I ask if the new residents have filled the spaces with old-fashioned and well-worn furniture, as older people are sometimes wont to do, however Jonathon says most have bought new, designer pieces to complement their lifestyle here.

It all paints a clear picture of the sort of resident who is attracted to Eden Lifestyle: wealthy, with a desire for added security and easy living. There is plenty of storage downstairs, car parking, a separate lounge and activity room, garden space, and even a men’s shed under way.

Village residents will also have priority for care suites when the time comes and they can transfer the capital from the apartment to their suite.

It’s a pleasure to walk through a new care complex like Eden and marvel at the pristine rooms, and the state-of-the-art facilities. But I miss the residents. I look forward to returning in a year and seeing the place buzzing; to seeing the immaculate dining room filled with chatter, and the hallways filled with walkers; to seeing residents enjoy this beautiful place and calling it home. I’m sure Oceania looks forward to this too.

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