Son plans care village as tribute to parents

A LOTHIANS-BORN developer plans to build a major new retirement village as a tribute to his late parents, who were forced to live in separate care facilities in their twilight years.

In what is thought to be first for the region, accountant Robert Aitken is awaiting approval from East Lothian planners to begin detailed blueprints on a combined 60-bed care home, nursing facility and sheltered housing complex on land owned by his family in Dunbar.

It is hoped that the new complex will mean ageing couples who require different levels of care will be able to live in the same complex, rather than be moved into separate care homes.

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Mr Aitken, who is basing the 'retirement village' concept on existing all-in-one care units in New Zealand, said his parents' experience was the 'catalyst' for his plan.

"They were married for 62 years but in the last few years they lived separately because my mother lived in a nursing home with dementia while my father remained at the family home in Dunbar," said the 57-year-old.

"He was such a good husband and would try to visit her everyday by taxi or using his mobility scooter.

"He struggled like this for about a year-and-a-half.

" It was difficult but there was nothing anyone could do about it. That was the catalyst to introduce this style of care provision.

"I live in New Zealand and have seen a retirement village in Auckland that's designed in such was way that elderly couples can have there own independence and also receive full-time care if necessary.

"My vision is to get something established in Dunbar that has a nursing home and sheltered housing next door in order to provide a range of care services on one site."

Representing Mr Aitken while he is back home in New Zealand, his cousin Alistair Kettles, said: "The whole concept is to have different levels of care, from passive care to much more intensive care.

"We are trying to deliver a concept. We are not sitting here with a predetermined plan and nothing will be delivered if we do not get planning permission."

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Funding for the development is still being sourced, but community leaders welcomed the proposal, which would be built on a 2.4-acre field the family have owned since 1936.

"We should thank the Aitkens for this," Kate Thomas, secretary of Dunbar Community Council, has previously said.

The application for the development is expected to go before planners in October.