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Care home or chocolate factory?

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Growing up in a retirement home gave Graeme Lee a remarkable perspective on elderly care and he’s used it to great effect.

The Chocolate Works Care Village in York has revived a derelict Art Deco building which now includes a pub, cinema and thoughtful design to enhance the quality of life of its residents. In 1967 Graeme's parents turned a large house in Garforth into the first care home for the elderly in Leeds. They and their children lived alongside the residents.

“I’d watch TV with the old ladies in the lounge and chat to them. At the weekend I’d make them breakfast so my mum he could have a lie-in” Graeme says. “Living with older people gave me a natural empathy with them and made me very aware of their needs and of how vulnerable they are.”

Graeme who's a former senior manager with Marks & Spencer, took over the running of the home in 1994 when his mother passed away. He has since grown it into Springfield Healthcare Group.

Springfield have three care homes in Leeds and also provide domiciliary care. The Chocolate Works Village is their latest project and Graeme’s pride and joy.

The village is all under the roof of the former Terry’s chocolate factory head office, which has laid derelict for 10 years.

The feelgood factor starts in the grand entrance, which looks and smells like a five-star hotel.

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In the centre of the building beneath the restored glazed atrium, there’s a communal area that is as far away from the traditional shared lounge as it’s possible to get. It’s a replica of a traditional market square with its own shops, salon, gym, coffee shop, bistro and a licensed pub, The Duke.

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Maximising the amount light was top of Graeme’s “must-have” list as studies show that it slows cognitive deterioration and alleviates depression.

Orientation was another vital consideration. “In a lot of care facilities, the corridors all look the same and that’s very confusing, especially for people who have dementia,” says Graeme. “Here they come out of their room and look into the market square and that helps them to orientate. It also means they can see life going on. There’s something to look at.”

The decor is inspired by the building’s Art Deco architecture and the en-suite bedrooms average 24 square metres, double the minimum standard. There are also self-contained studio flats.

His company continues to expand and his ambition is to rid society of the phrase “don’t put me in a home”.

Find out more here: www.chocolate-works.co.uk

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