Hundreds of homes could be built around Cumbria in a series of communities for over-55s.

This is the vision of the couple behind the £3.6m redevelopment of Scalesceugh Hall near Carlisle.

Bruno and Dr Anita Herdeiro bought the hall 18 months ago. For the past year work has been taking place on building 13 houses and bungalows in its grounds.

This is part of an innovative "later-living development" aimed at people aged 55 and over.

An open day takes place next week and the first homes should be ready to occupy in April. They are priced at £250,000 to £350,000.

The Herdeiros hope their high-spec development will help to raise the standard for older people's accommodation and be the first of several in Cumbria, potentially housing and employing hundreds of people.

The Scalesceugh Hall site will have healthcare and estates staff and facilities including a library and ballroom.

Anita is a GP with an interest in elderly medicine who worked for the Red Cross in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami.

Bruno is a former management consultant whose work has included developing a 10-year global plan for Save the Children.

Neither had any previous links to Cumbria. They were attracted here by Scalesceugh Hall's potential and by the desire to tackle loneliness and isolation in old age.

Having travelled widely, Anita said the UK can learn a lot from other countries. Scalesceugh Hall is inspired by similar developments in Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand.

Anita said: "We've experienced different ways of... not even ageing - just the way we live our lives. Age is just a number. The environment should allow you to live the way you want to live. Living how we want keeps us healthier for longer."

The couple do not use the term "retirement village". Anita said: "There will be a mixture of people as many do not retire until their mid-60s or 70s. We hope to create a mixed community."

Studies have suggested that Cumbria currently has high levels of loneliness for older people.

Anita said: “With the county facing an ageing population, this is an area that needs to be looked into more. We found that many people no longer look forward to retirement because they worry about their health, about being lonely and their ability to maintain their homes.

"They worry about ending up in shoe-sized-room nursing homes with most of their autonomy taken away."

The homes at Scalesceugh Hall have a Scandinavian feel with decking and large windows.

The hall itself, which until 2011 was home to Cumbria Cerebral Palsy Society, is undergoing renovation. Part of it is being made into nine apartments which will be available to buy.

The Herdeiros have plans to create similar developments in Cumbria, although they are not saying where until these sites have been secured.

"After two years we should have 200 properties in the pipeline in Cumbria," said Bruno. "Benchmarks suggest that it may be possible to build 800-1,200 homes a year in five years. We could have 1,000 employees in five years."

Anita's home county of Dorset is a popular place for over-55s' communities, attracting people who want to be near the sea. Anita and Bruno believe Cumbria has the potential to be a northern version for those who love the countryside.

"The opportunity is here to make Cumbria a centre of excellence for retirement," said Bruno.

"What would need to change is an understanding by the system and by local business people that we need to work together to create a new vision for Cumbria," said Anita.

"The airport is one example. Another would be systems linked and working together, whether that is transport, councils, health authority, to create a comprehensive approach to ageing and bring a more innovative look to Cumbria.

"We see no reason why Cumbria cannot be seen as a very desirable destination for people to plant their roots later in life, bringing employment and wealth into the county."

The couple see Scalesceugh as a community project as well as a business venture. They said that if it was purely about money they would have looked to convert the site into far more than 13 units.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson has visited Scalesceugh Hall and met the Herdeiros. "I think it's a really exciting development," he said. "It raises the standard significantly. It's an opportunity for us in Cumbria to offer something different to attract people to the area. That brings family and friends, and they might be interested in coming to live here themselves.

"In terms of creating similar developments, local authorities can help them through the planning and development process to make attracting that investment as straightforward as possible. Infrastructure, such as Carlisle Airport and the A69, is critical to improve the wider economy as well as the Herdeiros' initiative."

The Scalesceugh Hall open day takes place on Saturday February 24, 10am to 4pm. The hall is three miles south of Carlisle off the A6.