Date: September 2016

Roy Mateer and Leslie Soul tell how they fought off loneliness

Loneliness is a blight that affects men and women equally, and can arrive without warning. The sudden loss of a life-long partner, meaning that you not only have to deal with the grieving process but also cope with daily living, can be a key cause and often difficult to overcome.

Age UK estimates that more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

Leslie Soul
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Leslie Soul, centre, with Claire Fry of Richmond Northampton and friend, Jennifer Best
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Leslie Soul
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Roy Mateer (left) with fellow resident, Terry Painter
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Claire Fry of Richmond Northampton (centre) with Roy Mateer and friends Shirley Garrard and Joan Grice
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Roy Mateer
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According to studies of Dutch and Danish senior co-housing communities – see below – the benefits of co-housing in older age include an enhanced sense of wellbeing, a reduction of loneliness and isolation, continued activity and engagement, staying healthier for longer, and continued personal autonomy and independence. This leads to heightened personal satisfaction and the sense of belonging to a community, while participation in collaborative activities also helps to create a feeling of mutual support and security.

At Richmond Villages, the sense of community and the provision of stimulating activities is central to village life,” says Paddy Brice, managing director of Richmond. “We design, build and operate our villages, but it’s our residents who are the community, and make it what it is.”

Two residents at Richmond’s Northampton retirement village are testament to this, where Roy Mateer and Leslie Soul have thrown themselves into almost every activity going since moving in. Both live in Village suites with hotel-like Assisted Living support.

“I was still in a state of shock when I moved here following my wife’s death,” says Roy, “and much of what happened to me in the early days is just a blur.  I was, however, determined to make a new life for myself and took part in everything going, from coffee mornings and the crossword group to the chess club - playing for the first time since school, but I did draw a line with the Ladies’ Group and ‘Knit & Natter’!

“I instantly made new friends, my meals were provided and domestic tasks taken care of, while I was able to rebuild my life while taking time to mourn in private.

“I realised I was starting to make progress when, after a seated exercise session, I went for a coffee with a group of people, none of whom I had known just a few short weeks earlier.  They were great company and I laughed a lot for the first since losing Anne.  I began to realise I was starting to make a new life. It’s been wonderful.”

Adds Leslie, “It is such a very pleasant and friendly village – the staff are all so nice and always ready to go that ‘extra mile’ any time of day or night.  There is always something to do, watch or listen to nearly every day.  There’s a lovely service for all denominations on Sundays, communion once a month, and a car and driver to take us on shopping and pleasure trips. 

“I have made many friends here. My interests are many and varied: anything medical, travelling abroad, two missionary societies, the Far Eastern Broadcasting Association (FEBA), Hope Now – (Healthcare; Orphans; Prisons; and Education, and friendships to maintain here and in Worthing where I used to live.

“Keeping active and busy with my lovely new friends is wonderful, and the time just flies by.”

Roy’s story
Roy Mateer, 67, and his wife Anne moved into what they planned to be their retirement bungalow about ten years ago, downsizing after their adult children had ‘grown and flown’.  Both Anne and Roy had health issues: Anne suffered from bad arthritis, and Roy had problems with his neurological system affecting his balance and ability to concentrate.

These issues made it difficult for them to continue living in their bungalow, which was proving to be very wheelchair unfriendly.  They had had to employ a cleaner and gardener, and were starting to find it difficult to get out and about.  They had begun to seriously consider moving into a retirement village and had already put the bungalow on the market.  Then, in February this year, suddenly and without warning, Anne passed away in the middle of the night as Roy slept beside her.

Roy was in a complete state of shock, but fortunately his daughter Catherine, son Andrew, and son-in-law Simon took control.  They arranged for the bungalow to be sold under part exchange, and 28 days after Anne had passed away Roy was in a position to exchange contracts to sell up and move into Richmond Northampton.

“Catherine, Andrew and Simon had done all the hard work from my side, and I wish to thank Claire Fry from Richmond for the part she played,” says Roy.  “I actually moved into the Richmond village on 24 March, just 34 days after I lost Anne.”

Roy and Anne had grown-up and met in Greater Manchester.  After 20 years of married life they moved south to live in Berkshire.  This move was driven by a career change for Roy, who had worked for 20 years as an accountant before building a second career as an IT consultant specialising in financial systems.  He took early retirement aged 60 in 2000 due largely to health issues.  He has three grandchildren, and his interests include all sport but particularly rugby (league and union) and football, 1960s pop music and politics.

Leslie’s story

Born in 1926, evacuated to Shropshire at the start of the Second World War in 1939, Leslie Soul left school in 1943 and qualified as an hospital laboratory technician specialising mainly in haematology at two London hospitals and then Worthing in Sussex.

Leslie married in 1954 but was widowed in 1997, after which she went to India in 2000 with the charity FEBA, where she met and then married Denis, settling in Worthing.

After seven years, Denis was diagnosed with dementia after becoming forgetful and starting to get lost.  Leslie managed to look after him at home for a while, but her sons felt they should move into a care home. Her son, Jonathan and daughter-in-law Amanda live in Brixworth and discovered Richmond Northampton, and she and Denis moved in in 2010. 

“I was so impressed with all that I saw here, and the range of activities we could join in with.

“We were able to move into a very nice one-bedroom Village suite with all the help and medical assistance we needed.  Denis had to have extra help but finally went into Northampton Hospital where he died in July 2014.” 

Leslie keeps extremely active, and has recently attended iPad classes, and has quickly progressed from knowing nothing about e-mail to being quite an expert.  She is also a Richmond ambassador helping new people to move and settle in to the village, and joins in with lots of activities such as quiz nights, coffee mornings and the crossword hour.

“I’ve made lots of good new friends here,” says Leslie, “while also seeing my family, my two sons, their wives and two grandchildren, Daniel, 19 and Olivia, 16. It’s a really wonderful new life.”

According to studies of Dutch and Danish senior cohousing communities (Peeters & Woldringh, 1989, Kruiswijk & Overbeek, 1998, Brenton, 1998 to 2008, Fromm 2006, Jansen et al, 2008, Fromm & de Jong, 2009).

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Village suites at Richmond

Roy and Leslie both live in Village suites, which are assisted living apartments situated within the main village centre building, and designed to help people maintain their independence.  Apartments typically include a lounge, kitchenette and en-suite bedroom.  To remove the daily chores, these apartments come with an ‘Independent Living Package’, essentially hotel-like services which include all food, daily cleaning, laundry and utilities, meaning you can spend more time doing the things you want to do and maintain your independence.  Personal care is available from Richmond’s own on-site domiciliary care team, and tailored to each person’s individual requirements.

About Richmond Villages

One of the pioneers in bringing the retirement village concept to the UK, Richmond Villages has been designing, building and operating its own villages for almost 20 years.  The company currently operates five luxury retirement villages located in Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, with its new village at Witney, Oxfordshire now opening, and construction at Aston-on-Trent, Derbyshire already well underway.

Richmond Villages is one of the leaders in the retirement living sector, and has an established reputation for the provision of quality service and care, and won numerous awards.

For further information about Richmond Villages, please visit or telephone Richmond Northampton on 01604 653578

About Bupa

Richmond Villages is part of Bupa.  Bupa’s purpose is longer, healthier, happier lives.

As a leading global health and care company, it offers health insurance, medical subscription and other health and care funding products; it runs care homes, retirement and care villages, primary care, diagnostic and wellness centres, hospitals and dental clinics.  It also provides workplace health services, home healthcare, health assessments and long-term condition management services.

Bupa has 29 million customers in 190 countries.  With no shareholders, it invests its profits around the world to provide more and better healthcare and fulfil its purpose.

It employs almost 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, New Zealand and Chile, as well as Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and the USA.

For more information, please visit

To download hi-res images via the LawsonClarke PR online press office go to: Richmond Villages image gallery

Issued by:                                        Jeremy Clarke/Tracey Bretherton
LawsonClarke PR

                                                      Tel: 01285 658844
                                                       Fax: 01285 650080

Ref: RV24/2016