“You think of an old people’s home as somewhere people have gone to fade away. This is not true at Wisma Mulia. People here are very active: they travel, they maintain contact with their families, they have their hobbies, and many write and paint. Their time at Wisma Mulia is not a time of decline, but a distinct and creative phase of life.”

This is what David Barker, co-founder of Wisma Mulia, says about this care home for the elderly in Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.

Open day on the lawn at Wisma Mulia

David had the idea for Wisma Mulia in the late 1960s when he was working as a social worker in Dorset and bringing up his young family with his wife, Emma. The idea came as a surprise for him as he had no relatives at the time who were in need of such a space, but the feeling to set up this project was very strong.

Bringing together a group of friends who were willing to support him in the venture, in 1973 they bought a property with enough land for development. The down-payment was funded through bank loans that were guaranteed by one of their group, and over the years, various fundraising drives and a donation from the SBIF (which later became the World Subud Association) allowed them to complete payment.

The home was built in stages, with a fair amount of ‘winging it’. “If we had three-quarters of the amount needed for the next stage, we would begin,” says David, “and hope that the money would come in.”

Luckily it always did, although it was not always easy. After years of struggle, the Board employed a consultant to help them to get government funding they had been turned down for in the past. The consultant applied and was granted what he asked for – £120,000! They were also awarded around £70,000 per year for running costs, and this subsidy lasted until around 2007.

Jim Tysoe, Georgian Boycott (standing) and Elise

Nowadays Wisma Mulia is financed by residents’ fees, which according to David are very competitive compared with similar offers, supplemented by some reserves.

There are currently 22 residents in the care home and eight more living independently, with plans to build more sheltered accommodation in the grounds. David is still very much involved in running the project, as Chairman of the Board, and Emma visits twice a week.

So what makes Wisma Mulia special?

“It allows individual residents to lead their lives how they would like to,” says David. “It’s not regimented at all. Because it’s a spread-out community and not all one block, people have space. We have an art room and regular cinema shows and there is just a lot going on all the time. We also have very good carers working with us and there is a lovely feeling to the place.”

For more information about Wisma Mulia, please visit their website: http://www.wismamulia.co.uk/