With over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Keith Henesey has taken up the post of village manager at our new and exciting Gradwell Park retirement community.
Keith moves to this new community from our Elmbridge Village, where he has been village manager for four years. We catch up with Keith as he prepares to step into the new role this summer.
Q: Tell us how you came to work in the sector?
Having spent three decades working in the hospitality industry, I came to Retirement Villages Group Ltd with the skills to deliver a great service to the residents, supported by a fantastic team. As well as being able to understand the needs of the residents, act on them and deliver the excellent service they deserve; having leadership skills is also important to ensure smooth and efficient running of the village. I absolutely love the job.
Q: As you are taking on the role of Village Manager at this new and exciting community at Gradwell Park; what elements of the job are you most looking forward to?
I’ve been village manager at Elmbridge retirement village in Cranleigh, Surrey the past four years and I will be transferring all the skills to help build this new community. One of the most exciting elements of course is that Gradwell Park is a brand-new village that puts wellness first.
We will have a first-class wellbeing gym with specialist equipment, and a restaurant that focusses very much on nutrition and healthy eating – using local suppliers to source the very best ingredients.
Residents will immediately be enrolled into The Gradwell Park Members Club with access to all the exceptional amenities, we’re also extending the Members Club to the wider community, so they can enjoy all the fantastic amenities too, a truly integrated community.
I’ve lived in the area for the past 16 years so I’m very familiar with the surroundings. I’m really looking forward to bringing together Gradwell Park with the wider community and seeing it become an integral part of South Chailey, building upon relationships and partnerships with local clubs and schools.
Knowing the area as I do, I have no doubt that this kind of community will be a welcome addition – not only providing extra jobs for local people but also additional commerce for the economy. Over and above this, the older local community can be part of the village too.
Q: Drawing on your experience as Village Manager at Elmbridge, what successes will you be looking to build on and repeat at Gradwell Park?
First and foremost, we’re here for the residents – with myself and my team being very accessible. We want the residents to feel safe and secure, so it’s important at the outset to let them know that we’re there to try and answer all their questions. Having already spent four years in a village manager’s role, I have probably been asked every single question you can think of! The important thing is to reassure residents that no question or comment is too trivial, and to ensure they feel comfortable raising any point with myself or the team.
Q: With so many exceptional amenities available to residents at Gradwell Park, what do you think sets Retirement Villages aside from similar retirement communities – and what are the ‘best bits’ of this village?
There are so many ‘best bits’, but the wellbeing gym is pretty special. The equipment has been specifically designed for senior living. As well as having 24-hour emergency support available, the South Chailey GP surgery is virtually on the village’s doorstep.
Q: How do you think your many years of experience within the hospitality industry will be put to use in the village manager’s role?
I am planning to organise many events at the village for potential buyers, their families and the wider community through coffee mornings, afternoon teas and open days.
Once our highly trained chef is in post, there will be food talks, cookery demonstrations and we also hope to forge links with local catering students. Being local – in fact, I live just a few minutes from Gradwell Park – I will be able to access the best that the area has to offer in terms of suppliers and other parties who share Retirement Village’s strive for perfection.
Q: What would be your message to retirees looking to start a new, independent style of living?
Come and talk to us and see just what this exciting community and way of life has to offer. Being part of a community that focusses on your wellbeing is what makes Gradwell Park special; where you can meet like-minded neighbours and feel supported. The village is perfectly positioned to allow quick and easy access to the nearby market town of Lewes as well as the rolling hills of the South Downs and the blue-flag beaches of Brighton.
Q: Tell us a little about your personally.
My wife and I have three dogs which we enjoy walking in Ashdown Forest, an area of natural beauty and the inspiration for AA Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood in the Winnie the Pooh stories! We also like visiting the local attractions, including the Bluebell Railway – home to some fabulous steam locomotives and on occasion used as a backdrop setting for television dramas. I also enjoy good food and good wine!