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Abbeyfield: Another Have-Your-Home-and-Money-Too Example

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 23 April 2002 00:00

Canadians who find themselves rattling around a large family home after their children have grown and gone may have more choices that selling their house if they want to end their isolation and improve their cash flow.

In my continuing search for real-life Have Your Home and Money Too " examples, let me introduce two British Columbia innovators who had their homes converted into Abbeyfield Houses rather than sell and move into something more "manageable."

Eleven years ago, Count De Mezey, a retired engineer, announced in a Victoria newspaper article that he was looking for ideas for his spectacular large Oak Bay heritage house that would involve seniors. His principal condition in giving his house over to a worthy group was that he could stay in the house rent-free as long as he liked.

Of all the groups that approached him, he chose the British Columbia Chapter of Abbeyfield Houses Society of Canada which worked with him to see his house converted into an Abbeyfield House . Volunteer members of the Society continue to raise funds for repairs and renovations, keeping the house at a very high standard.

Abbeyfield Houses are ordinary houses, not institutional buildings, located on ordinary streets. Their special age-in-place adaptations and design ensure personal independence is preserved over the decades ahead. Some are new structures, some renovations of existing homes, churches or other buildings. Each of the 7 to 10 residents has a private room and washroom to furnish with their own things – their own home. The rest of the house is theirs, too – a communal living area for social interaction, meals and visits with friends and relatives. The live-in house manager is not a nurse, but runs the house and provides lunch and dinner. Residents are free to channel all their energy into enjoying an independent life in a warm, caring environment while their pursue their personal interests.

The Abbeyfield movement began in England in 1956 when Richard Carr-Gomm , a retired British major, created the concept. He resigned his commission in the Coldstream Guards to serve as the first housekeeper and was dubbed "the scrubbing Major."

The second innovator, British Columbian Peter Unrau of Armstrong donated his house -- now affectionately known as "Pete's Place"-- to the Abbeyfield House of Armstrong Spallumchoen Society (contact info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 250 546 0223) with the conditions that he live rent-free, have all his living expenses covered and be allowed to keep his dog and his pool table. During the extensive renovations of the conversion, Unrau only had to leave home for three months.

Financial freedom by giving away your principal asset – worth looking into? Donation of your property triggers a sizeable tax deduction and should eliminate most if not all of your living expenses.

Do you feel you have outgrown your house, but are not ready to leave your neighbourhood? Would you like to retain your privacy while acquiring a built-in family? Would you like a live-in house manager to handle routine tasks that take up too much of your time and energy? If you would like to explore the possibility of your house becoming a new Abbeyfield House or your land becoming a new building site, contact National Abbeyfield President Robert McMullan through the website , at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 416 920 7483.

Currently there are 27 Abbeyfield Houses in Canada and 43 Abbeyfield Societies. Perhaps it's time for one in your house or at least in your neighbourhood.

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PJ Wade

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