Abundant Life

Abundant Life - Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated – 02 October 2013

An Abundant Life is a Happy Life – A Dartington Hall Trust Project

The Abundant Life project is an innovative and exciting scheme. We have always welcomed your thoughts and questions, and they have always informed our thinking and the resulting plans. The Frequently Asked questions below have been compiled from those we receive by phone, post and email as well as through this website.

They are updated as more questions or plans emerge. If you cannot find the answer you’re looking for here, please do get in touch with us at or on 01803 847049 and we’d be delighted to help. But first things first…

1. What is the Abundant Life project?

With, currently, one in five of our local population over the age of 65, and with very little good housing and care provision for older people, we want to contribute to improving the lives of older people. We want to see more choice, more opportunity for staying active, more security for older people that they will get care, including health care, in their home when they need it. The aspiration for our Abundant Life project is to create a 170-apartment community for local people over the age of 55 who can come together to live independent, purposeful, active lives, take part in a wide range of activities, mix with people of all ages, and get the help they need when they need it.

Select an area to jump to the appropriate section

The Residents
The Buildings
The Finances
The Project Team
The Need
The Community
Getting Involved


2. Is it for everyone?

Yes. We have worked with local people, potential residents and potential small business tenants throughout the design process to create a scheme that is really what people want and need. We plan to appoint a scheme operator who will ensure that all care and support needs, including healthcare, can be met within Abundant Life. There will be allocation criteria which we will publish when we are able to offer the apartments. These will include criteria about minimum age, being ‘local’ and interest in living in a community of this kind. We want the community to be as inclusive and mixed as possible. We expect that residents will have levels of need right across the spectrum from no care and support needs at all to considerable. And we will have care and support staff on site to assist with this.

3. Will there be an age limit?

We plan to offer homes for those aged 55+ and we hope to attract residents across the entire age range to help us deliver a really dynamic, supportive community environment.

4.What if I need extra support as time goes by?

An onsite scheme operator will ensure that residents have access to the care and support facilities, including healthcare, which they might need. This is a very broad statement but we are absolutely committed to delivering homes for life for residents of Abundant Life.

For those residents who develop severe dementia there will also be a small specialised unit – so that they can have the seclusion they need whilst remaining part of a community that has been their home. This facility will also be available to those who live locally. People with mild or moderate dementia will be welcome to join the main part of the scheme.

Although there is unlikely to be a pharmacy and GP surgery onsite, we have been talking with Leatside and St Catherines Surgeries since the project began about how residents might benefit from their close proximity. These conversations are still ongoing but there will be plenty of space available within the scheme should a doctor want to run a weekly clinic or service from the site.

5. What is a ’home for life?’

When talking about Abundant Life we often talk about ‘homes for life’, but what does this mean in practice? A home for life is somewhere a resident can live for as long as they need or want to. The apartments offered through Abundant Life will be designed to be adaptable and flexible (for example, this includes flat access, doors wide enough for a wheelchair, showers in every apartment – provision which, ideally, would be in every new home everywhere); to change as an individual’s needs change and to be a home until it is no longer required. Combined with the security offered by an onsite scheme operator, we hope this will give residents peace of mind and enable them to take full advantage of the unique opportunities Abundant Life offers.

6. How many people could live in this scheme?

We hope to provide 170 apartments which, from experience elsewhere, will probably mean that around 220 people could live there. And there will be ten units in the specialist severe dementia care wing.

7. Can I bring my car?

Whilst we will be making sure that there are adequate facilities for those who want to bring a car with them to Abundant Life, we will also be offering a range of sustainable transport options to support those residents who want greener options to maintain their independence. Although not set in stone yet, our proposed green travel plan could include: a scheme-owned minibus, comissioning of a local community bus service like ‘Bob the Bus’, requesting a reroute of local bus services to the scheme, facilities for bicycles and electricity points to support electric buggies throughout the scheme.

Parking will be available for residents but guests, visitors and staff will be asked to park in the overflow parking near the Shops at Dartington and walk the short journey to the scheme. It is likely that a permit system for residents will be implemented to make sure that parking directly adjacent to the scheme remains solely for residents use.

8. What provision will be made for guests of the residents at Abundant Life?

Individual apartments at Abundant Life will have a minimum of three rooms. Almost all will have two rooms and we will include some four-roomed apartments. So there will be some capacity for residents to accommodate guests in their own home. There will also be a guest suite in the complex. In additional Dartington Hall has great guest accommodation just fifteen minutes walk away.

9. Will the Abundant Life facility also provide for people with limited mobility?

Our scheme will have Lifetime Homes standards as our point of reference in designing the scheme. To view the Lifetime Homes website, click here. The scheme will be designed so that that everyone can move around the site easily. Doorways and corridors will be generously proportioned, communal doors will have automatic openings, apartments will have parking and charging spaces at their front doors for electric buggies, and the gym, with well-being advisor, will help all residents keep as mobile and active as possible.

10. Will residents be able to have pets?

Yes. Research, and people’s own experience, shows that pets are an important part of the life of many older people. So pets will be welcome so long as they are well-behaved and looked after – and that they fit a reasonable description of ‘domestic’. No elephants, tigers or even pot-bellied pigs!

10a. What about chickens?

We are really keen to have land designated for Abundant Life , but that is not for building on. We envision residents deciding together what this land could best be used for. For example, residents might like to keep chickens or might like to have space for private or shared allotments. A lovely way to have a good supply of eggs and fresh fruit and veg!

11. Why does the scheme propose to treat people with dementia differently?

People with dementia will be treated with the same respect as everyone else. The overall intention for this community is to encourage independence, activity and social engagement. We also want it to be an inclusive community and one where residents feel confident that they do, indeed, have a ’home for life’. That should include residents who develop dementia. Dementia is not a ‘normal’ condition – about 20% of people over the age of 80 will develop it for example. The intention is to design the scheme and its facilities to be as ‘dementia friendly’ as possible. Good practice and research shows that some people with advanced dementias need accommodation with particular design features if they are to live a good quality of life. In many schemes those with advanced forms of dementia, which can sometimes be disruptive to other residents, would be moved to a nursing home. In the Abundant Life model, the intention is to continue to provide options for accommodation and care within the scheme.

12. How will inter-generational contact be encouraged?

The inclusion of new accommodation for the children’s nursery that already operates on the site, the incorporation of spaces for small businesses, the encouragement to the local community to use the communal facilities of the development, and the desire from the local special school to work with us to provide meaningful work experience placements are all examples of how we see the scheme facilitating inter-generational contact and engagement.

13. Will there be any music/sound-level policies?

The insulation of the building will be good and we expect noise levels to be low. We want to encourage a collaborative community, one where everyone is respectful of each other and finds ways to accommodate the needs of others. Noise levels are just one area where we hope residents, staff, volunteers and visitors will work together to find what will be best for everyone.

14. Is Dartington just building an old people’s home?

No, we are not! When we think of an ‘old people’s home’ we imagine a place where you get a room of your own but nothing you can call your own home, with privacy when you want it and the ability to have visitors as and when you choose, and the ability to go where you want to. Our Abundant Life community will never be that – residents will have their own home, and independence, with support to continue to be as independent as possible – all in a place that is attractive to those who live there, those who live nearby and those who come to visit.

15. Don’t older people want to stay in their own homes, or be in a town?

Older people are just like everyone else – they are all individuals and want a variety of things. So, some people do, indeed, want to stay in their own currant home. And some would always want to be in a more urban environment. Even some of those want to stay in their own home find they are lonely and welcome the opportunity to join a community with a home of their own and others relish the opportunity to live in a beautiful landscape. Our proposals are intended to add to the choices that older people can make.

16. Will this scheme mean we end up with far too many older people living round here?

No. The scheme is for older local people who want to live here rather than where they live locally at present or other, rather limited, options that are available. And with our scheme housing around just 220 people it will still be a drop in the ocean – and perhaps rightly so as what we want to do is offer more choice to people and also demonstrate what an abundant older age could look and feel like. The latest population projections for Totnes and its surrounds predict that there will be 9,708 people aged 55 or more by 2021 – 45% of the total population. Abundant Life will provide a home-of-your own, so giving security for the rest of your life, for around 220 of these people, which is just 2.27% of the total age group.

17. Will there be facilities for active older people, for example a swimming pool and tennis courts?

The Abundant Life community will provide a range of facilities for active older people, including an exercise suite and a swim spa (a small pool with pressure that you swim against – excellent exercise). The scale of the development and our wish for it to be affordable for all does not make the provision of full-size swimming pool feasible. However, there is an outdoor swimming pool nearby run by the Dartington Recreation Association (DRA). We won’t be able to provide a tennis court but are exploring other outdoor games such as croquet and petanque. The scheme is surrounded by fantastic walking and running opportunities.

We will also be making sure that the communal spaces within Abundant Life are flexible and suitable for residents and the local community to pursue other indoor physical activities whether Tai Chi, Yoga, Aerobics – whatever they want. The short mat indoor bowls club previously based at Foxhole will be invited to return.


18. Why is the scheme as big as it is?

Creating a community that is genuinely integrated – in income, in age, in heath, and in opportunity – needs scale. It is a very delicate balance to make sure that the number of residents within the scheme and the local community can support provision of the community facilities on offer. We think that we have this balance right, allowing us to offer a truly appealing quality of life to local people, including residents of the scheme, whilst keeping Abundant Life affordable and attainable for all.

Foxhole is a very large building which has seen significant decline in its use in recent years. The proposed scale of the Abundant Life project is also needed in order to bring this important listed building back into sustainable use

19. Will the whole scheme fit into the buildings of the original Foxhole school?

No. There will be new build too, adjacent and connected to the original buildings (the school and the gym). The new build will contain approximately 125 of the 170 apartments, most of the community spaces, the specialist dementia care wing, all the business units and the children’s nursery. While converting existing buildings is more expensive, we believe that it is important to find new uses for old buildings (especially those with a history as important to many as Foxhole is) rather than abandoning them and starting afresh completely. And we are excited by the potential to mix the old with the contemporary in both complimentary and sustainable ways. The original Foxhole building is not sustainable in its current configuration and use. We believe that using the school buildings as the base for a new community of older learners will bring the buildings back to a restored, coherent and fruitful use – of real value to both its residents and those living nearby.

20. Is this going to make Foxhole look like a housing estate?

We certainly hope not if a ‘housing estate’ is cold, brutal and inelegant! What we want to bring to life is an opportunity to live an abundant life in older age, with the security of knowing that there is skilled care to help you in your own home, if you should need it. So, the buildings have to deliver on that aspiration, as well as meeting our twin interests in excellent design that will bring pleasure and surprise, and sustainable build and running. The design will encourage people to feel like and act like members of a real community, one that knows who is there and shows interest in and compassion for all.

21. What is our vision for the accommodation? (e.g. mix of rooms, apartments, care facilities?)

We are planning a community of around 170 apartments, each with two, three or four rooms. These rooms could be used as residents prefer – a bedroom of course but then maybe a study, a lounge, a photographic studio, a dining room or another bedroom. All the apartments and communal areas will be designed to be easy to find one’s way around, while also ensuring that there is ‘progressive privacy’ so that residents’ living areas are kept private for them even while other people are using the communal facilities. The apartments will be designed to make it easy to provide for the full range of support needs – so that carers can help wash, dress, feed the resident for example.

22. What is different about this scheme than, say, a care home?

Abundant Life is all about choice: providing another residential option for local older people. Whilst residents will be able to enjoy the security of knowing that their needs will be met, as in a care home, they will also enjoy, and be positively supported to lead, a full, independent lifestyle, whatever their circumstances.

One of the big differences between Abundant Life and other housing options for older people is the range of facilities that will be on offer for residents and the surrounding community. These will include a cafe/restaurant, hairdressers, library, flexible spaces to be used for physical activity, crafts or meetings. There will also be a children’s nursery onsite.

The scheme also differs from others in that small business units will be available on the site. This will contribute to the thriving community we hope to develop here. Of course, these units will be open to any small business users including those former tenants of Foxhole.


23. Will I be able to afford to live here or is it just for the rich?

We have always been totally committed to this being an affordable community – and so we will have a mix of apartments for sale, for rent (at affordable rents) and a shared-ownership scheme aswell. During our early consultation sessions we collected information from attendees on their current house prices. We have also been working to make sure that we have a good understanding of the local market and that the cost of sale apartments is in line with market values. While sales prices are not yet fixed they are likely to be around £295,000 for a three-room apartment and £225,000 for a two-room apartment.

Other apartments will be available on a shared ownership basis and that others are available at affordable rents which are being modelled constantly to reflect changing benefit levels. At present the model rental is £100 per week. We have, and continue to work with local affordable housing officers to get the balance right and to make sure that all who want to live here can afford to do so whatever their circumstances. There will be no difference in the quality of any of these apartments. The specialist dementia care accommodation will all be provided at affordable rents

24. What about the service charges?
As with any such scheme, there will be a service charge for residents to support the maintenance and upkeep of the external parts and the communal areas of the scheme. We are running a range of different scenarios to make sure that these charges are fair and proportionate for residents and that the charges are not prohibitive for anyone, including those dependent on state benefits. The current modelling works out at £48 per week.

25. What if I want to sell up and move on?

Dartington Hall Trust will retain the freehold on all apartments. Purchasers will be able to buy on a range from 100% leasehold through varying proportions of shared ownership depending on their circumstances. We are currently looking into the options for buyback of apartments and what this might mean for residents. At present it is likely that we will offer a buy back scheme which guarantees that you get back the price you paid (minus a small dilapidations charge) very soon after vacating the apartment.


26. Why Dartington?

Dartington Hall School was a pioneer in new ways of thinking about and providing education for young people. And maintaining improved premises for small business and playgroup/nursery provision on the site too.

From the start, Dartington has been committed to supporting new ideas and practical action to meet pressing social needs. At the heart of our vision is the desire to develop a project which demonstrates a better way to support education and learning, to demonstrate new ways of tackling problems and to develop ways of thinking and acting that can spur others to make changes that benefit those most in need. With the numbers of those over 65 in the UK now exceeding the numbers of those under 16, the Trust believes it can make a positive contribution to delivering choice about good ways to live in older life. This concern for enabling older people to live fulfilled, happy and secure lives is exemplified by the work of research in practice for adults, in the range of those who share in the cultural and educational programmes of the Trust, and in its exploration of new models for living in old age through the Abundant Life initiative.

27. Why not local architects?

PRP Architects have fantastic experience in building for positive lifestyles (and homes for life) for older people across the UK. They are also lead advisors to the Department of Health on this topic, including most recently writing advice for them on dementia-friendly design. Older people in our communities are our elders, they have worked hard all their lives and deserve our respect and effort to ensure that they have the best older age they possibly can. That is why we have gone to the best-in-field architects.

28. What are you doing about sustainability?

We have a lot of knowledge and experience on sustainability issues here at Dartington and recognise how important an issue this is for local people too. We are working with with a sustainability consultant to explore our options for implementing sustainable measures within Abundant Life. An important balance for us is making the scheme as energy efficient and sustainable as possible whilst remaining financially viable for residents. We are working towards the principles set out in levels three and four of the Code for Sustainable Homes guidelines. This will mean offering a range of integrated energy efficient offerings including a Combined Heat and Power plant, rainwater harvesting, water-use minimisation and really excellent insulation.

29. What is CHP and why are you proposing it?

Combined heat and power (CHP) is an energy system which produces electricity, or power, whilst also capturing the residual heat energy from the process and putting it to good use (heating our homes). It’s a highly efficient way of generating both heat and power which contrasts with conventional ways of generating electricity where a vast amount of heat is simply wasted.
The Abundant Life Project is committed to creating a scheme which is as energy efficient as possible but which remains cost effective for residents; to achieve this we’ve chosen to use a CHP system. In the more traditional coal and gas fired power stations, up to two thirds of the overall energy consumed is lost, often seen as a cloud of steam rising from cooling towers. With a CHP system this energy is captured and reused which means that we can use less fuel to begin with, making the scheme more energy efficient and cost effective.

30. What is DHT’s energy and sustainability policy and how does AL fit into that?

The Trust is in the process of completing an energy and sustainability policy which will soon be uploaded to our website and be made available publicly. The Abundant Life project has been working with Dartington’s Energy and Sustainability Coordinator to make sure that the scheme matches up with the wider ambitions of the Trust which include:

• Leading by example to inspire others through enterprising, experimental and
educational solutions to our sustainability challenges.
• Identifying and complying with all applicable environmental legislation, regulations and standards.
• Continual improvement in use of energy and natural resources in our buildings, vehicles and activities.

We hope that through our design work and the responses to some of our other frequently asked questions, you will agree that the scheme really will embody those wider values of the Trust whilst achieving an energy efficient, sustainable community.

31. Was a co-housing model considered?

The co-housing model, which has been developed in a number of Benelux and Scandinavian countries and explored in the UK by various groups, is not the model adopted for Abundant Life, partly because of the aspiration to guarantee support and care to a range of people including those with high care needs. However, we hope to incorporate much of the co-housing ‘culture’ into our scheme.

32. Will DHT manage the scheme? If not, are you just leaving it to the mercy of others?

Whilst Dartington Hall Trust has expertise in lots of areas, we recognise that we need specialist support to manage the Abundant Life Scheme. We will not be managing Abundant Life ourselves; we will appoint a scheme operator to make sure that residents receive the best support from appropriately qualified and experienced people.

The scheme operator will in turn appoint a scheme manager who will be responsible for the day to day running of Abundant Life.

We will be working closely with any potential scheme operators to ensure that their aspirations and ethos match our own.


33. Isn’t there enough older people’s housing in the local area already with Baltic Wharf and other residential developments?

In this area we are so pitifully short of living options for older people that Baltic Wharf and the Abundant Life schemes will only be a drop in the ocean of what will be needed, and wanted, by older people. For example, the Totnes Town Population Projection published in 2007 showed that there were 7,909 people aged 55 or above living within the town and its surrounding parishes. This is projected to rise to 9,701 by 2021. If 90% of those people wanted to stay living in their own current home and just 10% wanted to live in specially adapted, community-minded, living space that would cover something like 900 people by the time the scheme can be lived in. The Abundant Life scheme could provide for barely 20% of that need, and the Baltic Wharf scheme less.

34. Is this the same kind of scheme as the ‘assisted-living and nursing home’ one planned for Baltic Wharf in Totnes?

No, other than being intended for people of the same age range. The Baltic Wharf scheme’s website states that it intends to include ‘up to 70 assisted-living units and a 60-bedroom registered nursing home offering independent living and continuous care with communal leisure facilities for residents and the public’. That scheme would be the choice of some people but not all. There is far too little choice at present and far too little provision altogether – so we welcome this addition. Even ours and the Baltic Wharf scheme won’t meet all the need there is locally. If significant nursing help were needed it is likely that residents would have to move into the nursing home (which is for the whole local population) or out of the scheme entirely. The scheme, like any sensible one, will try to help people to remain in their own homes as long as possible.

By employing and training our own support staff in the Abundant Life scheme we expect to be able to ensure that people can stay in their own homes unless they have acute hospital needs or experience some forms of very severe dementia. All our support staff will be dementia-care trained. And the buildings will all be designed to be both stylish and dementia-friendly. Even if you add up the provision of both these schemes they would still accommodate under 4% of the eligible population in the Totnes town area.

35. Can the local housing market support a scheme like this?

There is no denying that there is a housing crisis in the South West, let alone the rest of the UK. However, schemes like Abundant Life will almost certainly help by providing another, much needed, residential option for older people. We plan to offer homes which local people can afford and by offering a viable alternative to staying in an unsuitable and inflexible home, Abundant Life can help free up local housing for families. Any local person who moves into a new scheme, then releases what is likely to be much-needed family housing for others to live in.


36. There are a few other retirement communities in the UK – what’s different about this one?

Dartington exists to try new solutions to pressing problems and to develop distinctive responses to those challenges. This project will demonstrate how new provision can be created that links strongly to local strengths and cultures, that offers new opportunities for healthy and active lives, that provides care when needed, and that explores new ways to promote intergenerational activity. The project will build on the best of what exists and add a specifically-Dartington flavour – through its mix of residences and business space, through its provision for young and old, through its easy access to some of the most exciting arts and sustainability practice in the country, through its ability to be a living research community supported by the research activities at Dartington, and through the ability we have at Dartington to provide land for residents to use to grow and produce. We hope to show that, given the opportunity, older age can be life-enhancing, for older people themselves and for those around them. And we hope to demonstrate a way that others can replicate across the UK and beyond. You’ll notice that this is the only use of the word ‘retirement’ on any of these web pages – we don’t think ‘retirement’ is the right word. All it really means is that you stop the work that has brought in most of your income before – more and more of us carry on working into way into our 60s and 70s – some are paid, some not. Retirement increasingly feels like an out of date idea!

37. How can you be sure that you are providing community facilities that people really need and want?

From the outset we have worked with local people and potential residents of the scheme as well as with professional partners from this area of work and we’re confident in the range of facilities we propose to deliver at Abundant Life. Communities of this kind always have community facilities and evidence demonstrates that provision of community facilities onsite has a real positive difference to residents’ health and well-being. What is special about Abundant Life is that these facilities will also be opened up to the surrounding community. In a time when local facilities for people are very much in decline, we hope that by opening up Abundant Life to the wider community we can really contribute to Dartington’s vibrancy and vitality.

38. Can anyone use the community facilities?

One of our aspirations for Abundant Life is that the scheme can both benefit from and contribute to the vitality of its local community. Part of this will be ensuring that local people are able to access the community facilities but, as with any leisure facilities of their kind, there will be a membership scheme in place to do this. This will help to protect residents and to ensure that the facilities on offer can be maintained to a high standard for years to come and to the benefit of the local community.


39. Is there a waiting list I can get my name on to?

We don’t have a waiting list currently as we are at such an early stage with the development, but we will continue to keep the website updated with information about how the project is progressing. Anyone who has registered their interest has been added to our database so that when details of how to apply become available, they will be the first to see them.

40. How will you decide who can live in the Abundant Life community?

We are at such an early stage in the development that any decisions on how and who will get a place in the Abundant Life community has not yet been decided. There will be an application process, but the details are still to be determined.

41. How can people get involved and what kind of input are we inviting at this phase of your planning?

The Trust is looking for all sorts of help and advice from those who take an interest in Abundant Life: those willing to tell us about their own situation, needs and aspirations; those reflecting the concerns and priorities of the local community; and those with specialist skills and insights in the fields of housing and care.

Through the website, and through consultation events and outreach, the Trust will continue to provide information to the public and local community as plans for Abundant Life progress and look to engage interested individuals in the process. At present there is a group within the Friends of Dartington for those who are interested in supporting the project and contributing ideas and practical help. In due course we shall also launch the ‘Friends of Abundant Life’.

We have engaged and consulted with local people throughout the journey of the project; seeking ideas and input at every opportunity. We held 17 public consultation sessions in 2009 and 2010 – in Totnes, Kingsbridge and Newton Abbot. Since those early events we ran a series of design workshops in Summer 2011 and a report on those workshops and the architects response can be found here.
A public consultation and exhibition week was also held in December 2012.
You can stay in touch with progress on the project by registering your interest in being kept up-to-date with progress – click here to register online.

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