I’ve been extremely fortunate in my working life to travel to most European countries and to the US and Australia in recent years. As I write this blog, I’m waiting to start the long flight back home to Manchester from Sydney via Abu Dhabi. I must have spent many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in airports people-watching and often striking up conversations with fellow solo travellers. It’s a rich tapestry of memories – some of which I’m sure Becs and I will include in our book.
So what have I learnt from my visit to Australia this time? Primarily, we have more similarities than differences, despite our accents! We like good food, wine and beer, and above all the company of friends and family. From a country perspective, we have very similar demographics of ageing populations and a desire to make older age a period to look forward to rather than dread.
I met two major providers of care: Amana Living in Perth and HammondCare in Sydney. Both organisations deliver a range of retirement living and care services for older people. More excitingly, they’re designing innovative services alongside their health sector colleagues to transition patients from acute care back to their own homes. We shared lots of ideas and synergies across our business models, agreeing to collaborate and share going forward – despite the distance!
The most important theme to recur was the importance of belonging to a community, neighbourhood or family. That sense of belonging was reinforced by our global chair Dr Bill Thomas in a recent talk in the US where he clearly stated: “Belonging matters most.” And that’s a belief I share.
I realise not everyone shares my Christian faith, but that’s another family that transcends oceans. While I was staying with my ‘extended’ family in Sydney, I enjoyed a ladies evening of food, drink and great conversation with my best friend Paula’s church family. Our ages ranged from 45 to 80 and our discussion covered everything from local issues to world politics. In fact, a couple of fellow diners were so interested in our conversation they had to join in. A passerby may have looked on us as a group of older women having a gossip, when in fact I was sitting next to a former spy and our conversation was anything but mundane.
Australia is very much a family-orientated society. I had a lovely time in Perth with Becs’ family, which again involved food, drink and conversation. And then onto my old university pals in Sydney and a round of social and sporting activity with their friends, plus assorted children, dogs, rabbits and Guinea pigs. It’s incredibly powerful to be welcomed into a family setting and to feel as though you belong.
That’s what Evermore is trying to achieve, both as a group of people who feel part of a family or tribe and as a place where our customers belong. It’s also what we share with our Australian cousins and they seem to be able to create small households that deliver that family feeling to their seniors.
So we need to tune out of the constant negative media and the whinging of the private equity-backed major care home providers in the UK. They haven’t bothered to change their business models or design services that older people actually want, which is why they’re no longer fit for purpose.
The rest of the world is responding to seniors’ aspirations and desire to continue living a full life. We, along with others in the UK, are doing the same. Let’s continue to collaborate across the globe and maintain those strong bonds of family connection.
Evermore’s family intends to #LiveHappy.
Evermore Founder and Director of Market Innovation
Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraMcKeeFRSA