Support For Residents From Retirement Housebuilder

Posted 4 June 2020 by Lizzie Leigh

Miruna Constantinescu on how McCarthy & Stone are supporting their homeowners during the coronavirus pandemic...

Marketing director Miruna Constantinescu tells us how award-winning retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone is supporting their 20,000 homeowners during the coronavirus pandemic.

You've been supporting your homeowners and employees during lockdown. How's it been going?

My priority over the last couple of months has been to make sure that our 20,000 homeowners have the support they need during these challenging circumstances. Our homeowners are our most important audience and my team is focused on developing regular and informative communications for them. Lockdown is a daunting prospect for many people, so providing tips and content to support our homeowners’ mental wellbeing has been as important as supporting their physical health.

It hasn’t been easy, but it has been hugely rewarding. I receive regular feedback from our homeowners – many have my email address or my phone number – and when they tell me we’re getting it right, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

As we know, people over 70 are among those facing the toughest lockdown restrictions at the moment.

We’ve been following government guidelines really closely and are pleased we are able to offer our homeowners considerably more help, support and guidance than if they lived alone during this time. We have 1,600 people in our services team, including our house and estate managers who provide a range of services for our customers, from checking in to see that everyone is OK to providing personal care packages. Our developments have provided added peace of mind and given our homeowners reassurance that they are supported during this challenging period.

We have introduced a number of precautionary measures across all our developments to create as safe and supportive an environment as possible. At the start of the pandemic we were also pleased to offer 300 of our newly built apartments in our unoccupied developments to the NHS to help with their response to the crisis or provide housing for their key workers.

Is there an overall sense of how elderly residents are coping with the lockdown at your schemes at this stage?

Our house and estate managers are in daily contact with our homeowners, and we’ve also been running a weekly questionnaire to check how everyone is getting on. We’re all aware of the severity of COVID-19 but we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive stories we’re hearing from across our communities of our homeowners coming together to keep healthy and motivated. From daily balcony waves and fitness classes, to singalongs, poetry competitions and even a chess tournament - many of our homeowners are keeping themselves busy and are feeling pretty optimistic and supported.

There's lots of talk about wellbeing at the moment, how are you supporting your residents to ensure they're not suffering from social isolation or deteriorating mental health while they're not being visited by friends and family?

Our homeowners are brilliant at supporting each other. Every day I am hearing of more examples of the benefits of living in a community – neighbours checking in, friends encouraging each other to stay active, charity fundraisers, local businesses delivering flowers or treats. Our communities are truly made of much more than just bricks and mortar.

We’ve also been rolling out a dedicated calendar of activities for homeowners to participate in and keep their spirits up, and we’re trying to help those without internet access get connected so they can keep in touch with their loved ones.

Our Buddy system ensures that everyone has at least one point of contact who can check in on them bring them medical supplies and food and provide any other form of support throughout the lockdown period. We’ve had almost 500 of our own staff volunteer to be Buddies, including our CEO’s two sons. We’re really grateful for everyone’s support.

How do you think life will change for elderly people within your communities once the lockdown is lifted?

The COVID pandemic has certainly brought the wellbeing of the country’s elderly population into the spotlight. As we all move into the next chapter, we hope communities will continue to support each other and look after each other. As a business we will certainly be looking at taking our learnings from this experience and using them to enhance our offering, to ensure we can continue to provide a great place to live for our homeowners.

You're also helping staff who are working from home. How are you making use of technology to support them?

Like many across the globe at the moment, my team and I have been spending a significant proportion of our days using some form of video calling technology. It is not always without its challenges – from connectivity struggles to cats deciding to snuggle on the keyboard (or perhaps just my cat!) – but we make it work. It seemed strange at first but a few weeks in you don’t think twice about it.

What do you think the long-term changes – positive and negative – to our working lives might be once we return to a new normal?

Businesses across the country have spoken about ‘remote working’ for years, and there has always been a question over whether it would work in practice. I think this experience has proven that for many industries it is certainly feasible, and so we’ll see lots more policies that provide greater flexibility for staff. At McCarthy & Stone the nature of our work is a bit different, and in-person care and support is essential. We are having lots of conversations about how COVID-19 learnings can be built into our business in the ‘new normal’ – whatever that might look like.

And finally, what does McCarthy & Stone have to look forward to as a company once this situation eases?

Our homeowners have promised us the best party when all of this is over so that’s definitely something to look forward to! On a more serious note, I’ve seen a lot of resilience, pride and creative thinking in the business over the last few months – I look forward to helping these behaviours consolidate as we emerge from the crisis. And for everyone to be allowed to hug their loved ones.


Find out more about McCarthy & Stone developments across the UK.


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