According to the first national scientific study on solitude led this year by the faculty of Social well-being at the University of Malta, two out of every five Maltese who are aged 11 and over suffer from loneliness (Azzopardi 2019). The study also shows that the older people get, the more feelings of loneliness and solitude increase. This finding can be contributed to a number of factors, maybe the death of a spouse, death of friends, children living abroad, less close knit communities, or issues of mental or physical health which may restrain the elderly from socialising. However whatever the reason, loneliness can bring with it great pain and suffering causing the person to feel worthless, isolated, fall into depression and sometimes even lose hope.
This is where somewhere like Hilltop Gardens has made a difference, as it has been built with the aim of doing just the opposite. When built as a retirement village, the entrepreneur’s vision was to bring people together and form a community, not away from a village but right in the midst of it. This Village was not meant to be a ghetto where the elderly would live isolated from the rest of the world. On the contrary its aim was to bring the world into the Village and the elderly living there to become part of the Naxxar community and remain an active part of the general population. The result after almost four years of operating shows that is has reached this aim in a multitude of ways.
In the context of so much discussion surrounding loneliness I feel that we have really missed how Hilltop Gardens, a concept so new to Malta, has made a difference in the lives of so many elderly residing or visiting this complex. The ultimate aim was not to have elderly just change their address, i.e. move from one home to another. Hilltop Gardens concentrates on lifestyle and not only on the actual living facilities. It is based on the concept of active ageing and therefore provides daily activities which encourage the elderly to join in, and in doing so socialize and meet up. Scheduled shuttle transport takes elderly to the Naxxar village centre or to main shopping areas in Malta. Planned excursions allow elderly to keep up with current entertainment, be it a play, a blockbuster movie, a live concert. Elderly who were lonely in their own houses, have found new friendships, or renewed old ones, by meeting through activities. Residents who were fearful of leaving their house, due to falls or disability aids, now can go around the Village comfortably knowing full well that the areas are all conducive to their aids and well-lit and level to avoid falls. Older residents who were house bound because of lack of transportation, now have it provided. This means that residents, who may for one reason or other, been in recent years prisoners in their own houses, are once again socialising, meeting people, and having quality added to their lives.
The apartments were built alongside large leisure spaces and community and wellbeing facilities, with the aim of offering a better quality of life for the older residents and enhanced fulfilment to the younger generations which may make use of them. It is for this reason that the rest of the world has also been brought into Hilltop Gardens, through the use of the gym facilities, the SPA, the hairdressing salon, the majestic outdoor pool and lounge bar and last but not least the lovely Orchard restaurant. This causes a great mix of residents and visitors who in parallel produce a harmonious environment where there is life, energy, and above all a sense of being part of something living, something continually in motion.
Feeling lonely is no little thing and cannot be underestimated. Loneliness eats at you, at your self-esteem, your self-worth and it many times, if overwhelming, pushes you into a tunnel, the light at the end of which is not visible. In today’s world where everyone is so busy and social media has replaced a lot of human contact, the concept of loneliness has increased. Many elderly crave company. Some have so much to tell and no one to say it to. Some may have so much more potential to give and no one to give it to. Hilltop Gardens aims at developing this potential and using it in the right way to bring people together, to create conversations, and build new relationships. Man was not meant to be alone and everyone needs to know that they matter. By living in the right dignified environment, which is conducive to helping one keep active, develop one’s potential, and feel that they matter, people thrive and grow.
Ms. Charmaine Attard
General Manager – AX Care