Diana Athill on what makes her care home special

Just over two years ago I was given a ticket to hear the author, BBC radio Four guest speaker and nonagenarian Diana Athill speak in Primrose Hill, London NW3.

It was fabulous. I loved the venue, and the place was packed out – a tribute to Diana and to her subject ‘Aging’.

Afterwards, during Questions and Answers I raised my hand to ask her: “what are the defining characteristics of the retirement home in Highgate where you now live, and what makes it so pleasant for you there?”

She answered in a confident,strong voice: “it is a non profit and is cheap, but that is the extra cream on top of the cake – the home is run on the highest principals and is motivated to grant respect to all its residents, ensuring each to live as full a life as is desired in the most comfortable way that can be found.  The staff are carefully chosen for their kindness and sweetness, and unlike other homes where the staff changes all the time, in this home the staff stay, and are dedicated to their job.  The home is only for people of sound mind, but sound body is another thing and I am made to feel, despite increasing frailty, like a whole person.”

She herself is beautiful and radiant, and she loves to dress fashionably – indeed she stood out for her elegance. After the talk I was able to speak with her one to one and she was so glad to talk to me about what she was wearing, where she bought her outfit (Wall) and why she liked the styling. She was perfectly done up, and she beamed throughout.


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