Serving our communities with Sandy Spencer.
At Guild Living, the local community is part of our community. From charities to local businesses, artists to schools and social enterprises, we are a place that includes everyone.
To find out more about how we will ensure this, as well as our volunteering and intergenerational approach, we spoke to Sandy Spencer, Director of Sales at Guild Living.
We love to shine a light on local businesses. Tell us about how Guild Living will do this throughout our community.
Our goal is to benefit local stakeholders and local people, as much as our own Members. This starts with forming meaningful relationships with local charities, businesses and organisations – as well as local government and individuals.
These relationships then feed into the events and activities that we host on site. Whether it be hosting charity events or allowing the local U3A’s or Chamber of Commerce to use facilities to host meetings and lectures, but also for Members and the local community to benefit through apprenticeships or meeting room space.
We really understand that there is a great need for local charities to be receiving support from commercial organisations. And we also know that there is a great benefit for our future Members by providing opportunities to volunteer, lead or feel part of community charity initiatives. That’s why our website and social media channels are there to provide an opportunity to share their stories – not just ours at Guild. There really is a shared approach to everything we do.
Tell us more about the community engagement work Guild Living has already done. And about its upcoming plans?
We are all about exploring new experiences and learning for all ages. For instance, we support local schools – such as Ashley Park Primary School in Walton-on-Thames – with facilities for on-campus learning and intergenerational activities. We have also committed to a big mural wall around our Walton site, over 100m long, designed by the children.
Once our Guild Living communities open, there will be a strong focus on giving our teams time off for local volunteering. We also believe in local recruitment, so it may not be uncommon for a member to already know some of those in the Guild team, it will really support a great sense of home.
We also celebrate the lives of local older people through our Extraordinary Lives Project. In partnership with the University of Bath, we provided a space for people to talk about their experiences, and as a result, produced a story about their lives to share with their families and friends.
What plans does Guild Living have in the pipeline prior to opening our first Guild community?
A Guild Gallery will open in all our locations, designed for the community rather than just our customer base. It is a place where you can learn more about healthy ageing, get involved in different programmes, or simply meet with friends.
And with this comes a wide variety of ways in which we could involve local people and businesses. For example, in Bath, we would hope to allow The Bath Literary Society space to host meetings our group activity in the Gallery. Ultimately, we would like to run events based on the local communities’ interests to appeal to local people and future Members.
We would also hope to involve our university relationships, hosting lectures on popular topics, as well as networking events and forums. We also can’t wait to provide a space for U3A members to learn and have fun.
The most important thing is that we want to be helping locally – and it is the people moving into Guild Living that will guide our approach.
Our partners do a lot of great work for local people already. How does Guild Living plan to support them?
It is important that we stay local when it comes to providing support and give what time we can to help local organisations. Partnering with Age UK allowed us to host forums in our local areas and to connect with members of the community. We wanted to learn more about people’s wants, needs, and challenges they may face ensuring we provide a living and social environment that suits all.
The more we listened, the more we started to notice that ageism was impacting the lives of older people. And we sought to do something about it. The STOPageism campaign, which Guild Living founded, now has over 50 partners, all working together to address the issues older people face.
How did the Guild Team support older people living alone or isolating during the pandemic?
Through Covid, our partnership relationships grew. We soon learned that a lot of people in the community would not receive any help or visits. There was a great need for us to step up and support organisations to make sure that older people still felt like part of their communities while isolating.
Participating in Age UK befriending calls allowed us to provide a consistent connection between the individuals and our team. So far, we have conducted over 1,960 hours of calls. There are members of the Guild team who still speak to their older person once a week, every week. Another of our team ended up bringing shopping to their caller and helping them with their travel arrangements. Both as a result have formed close friendships.
Intergenerational activity is so important. What will Guild Living be doing to ensure the new communities will be places for all ages?
An intergenerational approach does not just mean the very young and the older. Whilst in some of our schemes, a nursery has been planned, in all there is still a consistent approach to bring all ages into the community. We welcome a shared use of our amenities, where members of the community will be able to enjoy a range of dining options, events, and activities, as well as classes and treatments in our wellness centre. We aim to be part of the every day of not only our Members but their friends, family, and the wider local community.
Whilst our amenities suit the need of Guild Members, they are also designed to suit people of all ages, encouraging a mix of generations in spaces like the cafés and restaurants, which will also be open. So, you’ve got a daily population of people who cross the generations.
Why do you think that intergenerational activity is so crucial?
Humans are inherently social animals. It is important to give a person – of any age – the opportunity to spend time with others, to be able to share experiences and feel part of a social fabric. I believe that’s what helps us to feel a sense of pride and belonging.
We all want to feel part of society, and the events and activities at Guild communities will really enable this. There will be so much on offer for those that may call Guild home, that coupled with our intergenerational ethos ensures older people remain at the centre of our lives and our communities.
The programmes that we want to run and partnerships that we want to form are in their infancy, but we have a passionate and dedicated team who are excited that each day we are getting that bit closer to bringing the Guild community vision to life.