TV presenter and campaigner for older people Dame Esther Rantzen opened a new £4.5 million hotel-style care home in Denby Dale today.
The truly state-of-the-art care home boasts en-suite wet rooms, a hair salon, spa and gym, restaurant and bistro.
Dame Esther, 74, star of BBC show That’s Life! for 21 years, is also known as the founder of child protection charity ChildLine.
But in 2012 she launched Silver Line, a helpline befriending service aimed at combating loneliness in older people.
Journalist Esther, who was made a dame in January, launched The Denby at Denby Dale Care Home watched by residents and staff.
She unveiled a plaque at the purpose-built home in Wakefield Road then sliced into a specially-created Denby Pie, a layered sponge cake made to resemble the famous Denby Dale Pie.
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After a tour, Dame Esther said the home with its hotel-style mirrors and paintings and grand piano in the reception area, was among the best she had seen.
“Sadly it is very usual,” she said. “I do see a lot of similar projects, care homes and sheltered housing complexes and this is the direction we should be going.
“Places like this are a lifestyle choice for older people whose principle motive is to save their families the concern. They don’t want to be a burden.
“Older people should not be cut off or forgotten about. They should be valued and their life skills used and appreciated.
“Speaking as a little old lady we are often not aware of people’s life story. We are talking about a generation who lived through the war. Places like this are still unusual but very cheering.”
The Denby has 46 rooms in lavish corridors with names including Lexington, Madison Avenue and Broadway. There is the Silks Restaurant, Top Hat Bistro and the Serenity Spa.
Rooms cost from £600 to £850 a week and Dame Esther said: “Not everyone has the means to fund a place like this but this is the direction care homes should be moving in.”
Mum-of-three Dame Esther already has one grandson Benjamin and is expecting two more grandsons in the next two weeks.
She is planning a big family celebration in Corfu for her 75th birthday in June and there is talk of a ‘reunion’ gathering to celebrate That’s Life!, ChildLine and Silver Line.
Silver Line has taken 350,000 calls since its nationwide launch just over 12 months ago and volunteers are matched with callers and 1,200 friendships have been formed.
“It’s a vital service offering older people somewhere safe to talk about their feelings,” said Dame Esther. “What we found with ChildLine was that children wanted to protect their parents while with Silver Line parents want to protect their children.”
Two of the residents who tucked into the Denby cake were Betty Thornton, 86, and Trevor Marshall, 79.
Art class teacher Betty, of Almondbury, was staying for respite care and said: “It’s a fantastic place, just like a hotel.”
Silver Line can be contacted on 0800 4 70 80 90.