Retirement village operators have been coming up with innovative ways to keep owners and tenants safe and happy during lockdown.
Retirement communities are completely different from care homes. They are generally designed for fit, able retirees looking to live independent lives within a supportive community.
Most have kept Covid-free by implementing strict measures. But that does not mean residents do not feel vulnerable and frightened.
Retirement operators like Rangeford Villages, which has two developments, have really stepped up to the plate going to extraordinary lengths to keep homeowners connected and safe.
But staff are still available 24/7 to provide companionship and help with online food shopping, collecting prescriptions, and help homeowners Skype their families.
To help boost residents’ morale and combat loneliness, new initiatives taken at Wadswick Green include:
- Exercise classes which allow residents to join in from their balconies with a trainer leading from the courtyard with loudspeakers
- Morning meetings where residents can wave and greet each other from their balconies each day at 11am
- Balcony photo competitions
- Poetry readings from the courtyard
- A pop-up shop selling essentials
- A takeaway service from the onsite restaurant
Services like this not only keep residents connected while in isolation but make them less fearful than if they were living alone in their own homes.
Churchill Retirement Living manages 190 developments housing 10,000 retirees. and without government help has managed to sourced PPE for all its lodge managers.
“We recognise the potential vulnerability of our owners in respect of this virus and we want to do all we can to protect them and ensure our developments continue to have exceptionally high levels of safety and service,” says chairman Spencer McCarthy.
Churchill has also teamed up with a wholesaler to offer a new service delivering food and supplies to its network of Lodges, ensuring owners have access to essentials as they self-isolate.
“With all the information and help you have given us here, I’d just like to say a big thank you for doing all you can to keep us safe,” wrote Mr and Mrs Lawman, appreciative owners at Stevenson Lodge, Bournemouth.
And Peter Wozniak, whose mother lives at New Pooles Lodge in Bristol said. “She (my mother) would like to make you aware of the fantastic job the Lodge Manager Gordon is doing to make the owners feel safe and secure. He has assisted my mother on many occasions, for which I am really grateful. It really good to know my mother is being looked after.”
Staff at Castle View retirement village in Windsor, which has reported no cases of Coronavirus, have even organised singing sessions to keep residents’ spirits up.
“Singing all together illustrates the great atmosphere there is here,” said homeowner Norma George, 78. “And how fortunate we are to be in such a safe and caring community.”
“It’s fantastic,” said village manager Lisa Fisher. “Led by our very own sales manager, Ruth Wilson, on lead vocals everyone was game to give it a go − such spirit and camaraderie. I’m really proud of them all.”
“There is a great atmosphere here,” said 86 year old Jill Homes, “and a real Dunkirk spirit about the place. Of course, we are all fully aware of what is happening elsewhere around the world and the hardships many are suffering, so we all feel extremely fortunate to be in such a safe and caring community.
“We obviously miss not being able to see our friends and family at the moment, but we have wonderful views of Windsor Castle, where we know The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are going through a very similar experience.”
Lisa has moved into the village with her dog, Benjy as has restaurant manager, Caz Hughes, and other members of staff to ensure residents health and safety. This has meant all the communal facilities including the restaurant, hair salon, rooftop bar and Sky lounge have remained open.
McCarthy & Stone, the nation’s largest retirement housebuilder, has initiated a Buddy system where a homeowner nominates a trusted friend or family member who can check in on them and bring medical and food supplies.
Almost 500 McCarthy & Stone staff have volunteered to take part in the scheme including Natalie Warren, the company’s Senior Finance Manager who is a Buddy volunteer at Walmsley Place, in Hampshire.
“It’s nice to give back and help where I can,” says Natalie. “I live close by and wanted to offer my support and help to those who are alone during in this time.
“I’ve collected homeowners’ shopping and medical prescriptions, and encouraged them to use and practice using new technology to help them feel connected to their families and friends. I’ve even written instructions for one gentleman to defrost his freezer!”
House Managers and Estates teams are in regular contact with homeowners, either on site or by phone, and some have even moved into spare apartments, to offer extra assurance and help.
Inspired Villages has even set up a virtual village centre so residents in its six villages can be in touch. www.facebook.com/inspiredlifeuk
The online community offers activities, events and articles focussed on residents’ mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing. “We’re told we need to isolate but we don’t need to isolate from society,” says CEO Jamie Bunce.
And across Audley’s 19 Villages, staff have been making owners feel engaged and active with online guides available via its website and Audley app.
- guides for video calling and how to install an app.
- Videos of simple exercises to do at home, accessible via Audley’s new Instagram and YouTube
- Also puzzles and trivia and and cookery masterclasses, along with a selection of village-wide music playlists.
- Despite the temporary closure of the restaurants, the chefs are still providing menus and food for delivery to owners and team members.
Even people living in bungalow communities such as Martin and Susan Bean, who bought a chalet bungalow last year at Terlingham Gardens in Folkestone, are feeling the benefits.
“We moved mainly for the garden,” explains Martin, 74, a retired RAF aircraft engineer. But they have discovered how well they are being looked after too.
“Since the lockdown we’ve enjoyed regular vegetable and newspaper deliveries,” Martin adds, “as well as visits from a fish and chip van and a roast dinner on Sundays, all arranged by the residents group.” www.pentlandhomes.co.uk