Welcome to THE EMBASSIES OF GOOD LIVING
– where later life is a positive experience
By Jan Garde, Founder & CEO, THE EMBASSIES
The world is undergoing a radical demographic shift. Almost 20 percent of people in the European Union are already over 65. By 2025, around 10% of the population of Japan will be over 80. The Earth’s population is ageing, quickly and dramatically. We’re living longer than ever before.
When I consider old age, I think: where will I live? I worry I’ll be institutionalised in a care home, because where else will I go? The connotations around senior living are mostly negative. Old age is a lonely limbo. A decline. The state before death. A waiting game. We are led to believe our senior lives are of little value — that as soon as we become old we are of little value, almost meaningless. Our knowledge is dismissed — knowledge developed across a lifetime! Our experience means nothing. We are forgotten and passed over. We are a burden — at least, we worry we have become a burden. Because physical health wanes in later life, we are encouraged to move into retirement facilities, institutionalised, away from the homes in which we have lived our lives, comfortably, the way we’ve wanted to, for years. The facilities resemble — let’s be honest — neither our homes nor five-star accommodation. They are hospitals with rooms. Stark. Bright. They lack personality. They lack community. They do not feel human. There is a smell, a taste, a touch… It is the opposite of aspirational.
We’ve all seen a version of this kind of facility in our lives. I witnessed one closely when I was a child, as my grandparents moved from the home they’d shared for 30 years — a real home, a home that worked for them, filled with their belongings, every corner a memory — into a senior living facility that had bare walls apart from the odd mediocre painting of a flower. I thought: Is this the future for me? Don’t we deserve better in our later life?
For the past three years, I’ve investigated countless studies that report on senior living and read even more articles, spoken to hundreds of seniors, and visited more than fifty facilities in a bid to understand exactly what the perfect living space for later life might look like. It quickly became clear that what the world needs is not just a premium retirement home — there are already very good care homes out there. What we need in later life is much more complex. It is not a question of creating spaces for individuals so much as community, communal living, meaningful relationships, continued worth, and ownership of one’s life.
This led me to an idea. After my research, I realised that was required in the market was a concept that redesigns the entire experience of later life. Not a retirement home, but an idea that changes how we see and perceive old age, that reconfigures our understanding of later life as a time in which we continue to live fruitful lives. And I realised that, having spent years in roles that centred on campaigning for the best quality of life, I was an excellent candidate to push that idea into reality. I wanted to do it for my friends, for my family, for myself, for you! I thought: we’re all getting older — why should we be expected to enjoy our lives any less?
That’s why I established The Embassies of Good Living, a global co-retiring concept that changes the way we perceive and experience later life. The Embassies will manifest as a new category of senior living, a global network of premium residences for the 60+ demographic and a series of communal spaces for them and their younger peers. They will appear in beautifully renovated buildings in some of Europe’s greatest cities: Zurich, Milan, Paris. The mission is simple: to re-design the senior living experience by creating places (some communal, some private) in which a smart and discerning audience love to spend time; where quality of life is paramount; where community and togetherness is a major factor of living; where relationships can be developed between people of all ages — not just between those in later life; where meaningful lives can be lived; and where healthcare can be provided specific to an individual’s needs and only when required.
In this way, The Embassies is not a well-designed retirement home (though our locations will be exceptionally well designed!), but a broader concept that challenges the misconceptions around older age. We are aiming to bring people together — to create spaces that allow tenants and visitors to continue to live productive, worthwhile lives. Tenants will have chosen to make their homes here, and will own that decision. (They will not have been ordered away from their previous homes by doctors, as happens frequently today.) Communal spaces will be the centrepiece of the Embassies experience — our locations will be open to everyone, beautifully designed, well curated. It’s here where neighbours become friends and visitors become regulars. Tenants of our premium apartments will experience independent living and care when necessary. And they will be able to move freely from one Embassy location to the next, and expect the same experience and service.
But really The Embassies is about community — about the 60+ demographic living their later lives with others, developing meaningful relationships, contributing, continuing to live their lives in the way they deem appropriate. In the way they want to, in spaces they want to spend time in, with people they want to spend time with. We’ll harness their incredible wealth of knowledge and experience, and build bridges between generations and local communities. By connecting these dots we’ll ensure that younger generations can learn and grow in their company, and that our more experienced members can continue to feel an integrated and valued part of society.
The first Embassies location is due to open in Zurich, in 2021. Until then, we will organise a series of meet-ups, in cities including Amsterdam, Berlin, Los Angeles and Zurich, during which potential we will discuss ideas in an attempt to understand further not just the day-to-day requirements attached to 60+ living, but to hear from potential tenants and visitors about the elements of life and living they truly value. This data will inform the decisions we make: what partners we should work with, where our Embassies should be located, what balance of tools and services and spaces and experiences and people will add up to the highest quality of senior living. This will allow us to create Embassies that we will all look forward to living and spending time in. After all, that’s our goal. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.
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Grüezi from Zurich
About the author:
Jan Garde, has worked in marketing and customer experience for more than 15 years, for companies including Jung von Matt, Mercedes Benz, MTV, Unicredit, RedBull, Twothirds Clothing and Vodafone. From 2014 until 2018 he led the design network department at Deutsche Telekom, where his work won multiple international awards and recognition. In 2018 he founded The Embassies of Good Living, a global co-living/co-retiring concept that changes the way we perceive and experience later life, based in Zurich, Switzerland. He is a passionate chef and marine activist, and has served as a board member for various non-profit and sporting organizations.