Edouard Keller – Managing Director of International Carlin Group: What is Les Pénates?
Maxime Sauvanet – Founder of Les Pénates: Les Pénates is a way of rethinking the way of living his retirement when we are alone and still independent. Nowadays, for a senior in this situation, the choice is very binary between home care and Senior Residence. Even if it still exists other options less popular as the béguinage, the host family, or cohabitation with students, for which there are actors who are doing a very good job. We observed a lot of what existed and worked abroad and co-living for seniors quickly seemed to me to be an obvious thing to develop.
Maxime Sauvanet – Founder of Les Pénates
E.K: What is the story behind this project, why did you decide to start at this time?
M.S: The story is quite simple. My parents have been retired for a very short time and when I tried to look further, I couldn’t find a suitable accommodation solution for them and their friends. This reflection led me to become interested in the world of accommodation for seniors. It was before everything was accelerated by the various lockdowns that we have experienced, and the many seniors who have been very lonely for many months.
Whether it’s the ergonomist or the architect who accompanies us, I ask them to think of the house as if their parents were going to move in tomorrow.
E.K: What is the main difference of positioning between Les Pénates and a “classic” care home?
M.S: We do not position ourselves in relation to a care home, which is medicalized, with a lot of staff and which aims above all to accommodate dependent people. We are more in competition with the Senior Residence. We are not specialized in medical care.
Our main assets and differences: houses with beautiful architecture, on a human scale, always in the city centers of towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants, and a design that combines contemporary, family home and ergonomics. Our residents are independent seniors.
E.K: How is the medical approach managed?
M.S: It is important to highlight that our houses are not medicalized. On the other hand, access to health care is facilitated inside Les Pénates. We identified a local general practitioner. A consultation area with an examination table is available in each house. This makes it easier to see a doctor, a physiotherapist, or a liberal nurse. We are also in discussion with a company specialized in tele-consultation so that our residents can benefit from this service with our doctors, it will be included in our basic offer.
Fall and behavior change sensors are also present in the houses and allow us to alert the emergency services or the doctor at proximity as soon as possible. Unlike other establishments, we have chosen not to give a necklace, watch, or anti-fall bracelet on your arrival at Les Pénates, which we consider too intrusive. We prefer discreet and intelligent sensors.
Finally, we are surrounded by experts such as a clinical psychologist or an ergonomist. These people are essential for the comfort of our residents, the preservation of their autonomy, and the well-being of the community.
E.K: How is this positioning aligned with the expectations of seniors and their behavior? As well as those of their children (and grandchildren)?
M.S: The seniors of today and tomorrow are not the seniors of yesterday. The generation entering the retirement market comes straight from 1968. They reinvented the active lifestyle and will reinvent the way of living retirement. They were also the first ones to be able to travel easily, to learn easily, to have access to a society of entertainment and freedom. They are healthier and have one of the highest purchasing powers in France. They do not aspire to live like their elders and even less to reside in establishments that are too much of a big step into the elders community. They are looking for proximity but above all for real community life while allowing them to remain independent for as long as possible. And I think that Les Pénates matches all these points.
Regarding the children and grandchildren, we must make them feel less guilty seeing their parents or grandparents living in a house with other seniors. The fact that we offer family home-type residences helps to reduce this “guilt”. We also offer our residents many ways to maintain a strong bound with their family during their life at Les Pénates. When the younger generations come to visit their parents or grandparents, they have a dedicated lounge in each house. These moments of intimacy are very important. We also try to think of some small activities and accommodations for the younger visitors.
E.K: Do you think such a project would have made sense 10 or 20 years ago?
M.S: This goes with what I said earlier. I don’t think so. The seniors of yesterday did not necessarily have the same expectations as those of today and tomorrow. That’s why care homes with 80 to 100 people had and still have impressive occupancy rates. They were looking for tranquillity, security, and the fact of being surrounded by qualified staff. This reassured the family. Today, we are much more interested in well-being and aging well, which is what Les Pénates is all about.
E.K: And in the future, would you like to go even further in your initiative?
M.S: Today, we have lots of ideas to develop this concept a step further, whether it be for the housing itself, for services, but also for digital technology and data analysis, which can bring great advantages to the lives of seniors. I plan to interview a large number of people between now and the end of the year to find out where we can put the cursor. And no doubt this will evolve over the years. But it is a real opportunity today to be able to collect a maximum amount of data which, thanks to artificial intelligence, will enable us to detect a loss of autonomy increasingly upstream and to act accordingly.
E.K: Do you think this model can be exported abroad? We are thinking in particular of Asia or Africa, where the seniors often live with their families.
M.S: This model comes from abroad, so yes, it is exportable! But to be very honest, I would have to do some research to find out if this model could be relevant everywhere. As you say, there are many cultures where seniors come back to live in the children’s home. I don’t know if co-living outside the family circle can be adopted in these countries. To be confirmed !
E.K: What role did the health crisis play in your thinking and implementation?
M.S: Covid delayed the project in two ways: the fundraising and the reluctance of banks. I estimate having taken 6 months of delay. Secondly, Covid is also behind the development and acceleration of inclusive housing for seniors, which we are talking about a lot at this moment because of the release of several reports for the government recommending the acceleration of these new alternatives. Seniors have suffered a lot from loneliness and isolation in these past months and many would like to share their retirement in a community. However, large complexes are less attractive and not all seniors can find what they are looking for in the suggested solutions.
Covid has also rethought our house plans. We have now integrated a tap in the entrance hall for immediate hand washing and we have integrated a storage space when some people have their shopping or parcels delivered to isolate them. This will undoubtedly be positive for other epidemics such as the flu.
E.K: Is there any other aspect of this project you would like to discuss?
M.S: We approach the subject of inclusive housing in its entirety. In this way, we also offer groups of seniors who already know each other the opportunity to accompany them in the creation of a turnkey home. We as well provide the possibility to seniors already living in groups to adapt their homes according to our charter and to provide them the services that our residents benefit.
Finally, if families or communities own assets that are not being used and that the costs become too high, we can assist them in transforming these houses into inclusive housing for seniors.