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Hilltop Gardens: New approach to retirement homes

An artist's impression of the Hilltop Gardens, set to be completed by 2016.

An artist's impression of the Hilltop Gardens, set to be completed by 2016.

The concept behind Hilltop Gardens can best be explained in one sentence: “Instead of families coming to pick up their relatives to take them out for the day, we want it to be the sort of place that they want to come to spend the day themselves.”

This is the way Angelo Xuereb described the 17,000-square-metre, €50 million investment, which only recently got a permit and which will be completed by 2016.

Mr Xuereb had plenty of time in which to refine the concept: He had originally applied in 1991 to turn the enormous site near the Giovanni Curmi Sixth Form on the outskirts of Naxxar, formerly used for his construction company, into a combination of retirement village and nursing home.

“I think this is one of the fundamental differences between what we offer and what there is on the market. The two will be completely separate as those who are active would not necessarily want to spend their time the same way as someone who is frail and immobile. The retirement village should not look, function or even smell like a nursing home.

“However, should the time come when they need nursing care, then they – and their relatives – have the peace of mind of knowing that their place is guaranteed.”

The three-storey village is meant to be a self-contained, upmarket resort, aimed at those who want to remain active – but who may want company and ancillary services on hand, such as meals delivery, cleaning and maintenance, which will be available on a regular basis as well as on demand.

The residents will have a multi-purpose hall, a regular schedule of crafts from pottery to painting, a chapel, a library, a bar and restaurant, and a spa and fitness centre (with physiotherapy services).

Over half the area – 57 per cent – will be dedicated to landscaping and an extensive outdoor pool area. There will also be an allotment garden for those with green fingers and 0.5 kilometres of paths. The residents will also have an hourly shuttle bus service to the centre of Naxxar.

However, Mr Xuereb also believes that grandchildren are an important part of active ageing, and the village will have both an indoor and outdoor children’s playground.

“They are the best way to keep young at heart!” he said.

The 250 apartments will be just large enough to cope with but with luxury finishes, including a terrace with sunbeds and planters. The whole project will be based on the needs of the elderly – from ensuring sufficient ventilation to banish the odour associated with institutions, to equipment to monitor the residents’ well-being, such as motion sensors.

“For relatives, this means real peace of mind as if they have a relative living alone, then they will know that any falls, illness or problems would trigger alarms and that the response would be immediate, far faster than if their relative lived alone at home,” Mr Xuereb said.

Chief financial officer Michael Warrington said the message was simple: “We want our residents to have a better quality of life. This is a lifestyle experience and this is what will distinguish Hilltop Gardens from anywhere else.

“We will also have flexible ownership concepts – although it is too early to talk about prices. So you can own the property and can pass it on to your heirs. But we will also offer short-term arrangements, say for those who want to try it out for a year.”

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