Care And Support For Retirement Development Residents

Posted 24 April 2020 by Keith Osborne

Companies in the retirement property sector are making major contributions to help tackle the pandemic crisis...

Companies which build and management homes for people of retirement age have made major contributions to help tackle the pandemic crisis. 

With so many buyers and residents of an age which experts see as particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, these developers have taken a host of moves to assist and reassure homeowners and their families, as well as helping out the health and care sectors who are so admired for the extraordinary work they are doing. 

Retirement Villages Group (RVG) has brought in strict measures to keep their residents and staff supported throughout the pandemic. These include the provision of food and home cooked meal deliveries, a wellbeing programme, walking trails and gardening, regular check-ins via phone and the creation of Community Connect – a virtual community group for residents and the community to remain connected.

Will BaxWill Bax of RVG

Retirement villages exist to help older people to live better lives,” said CEO Will Bax. “We have been forced to pivot our services in the past few weeks to ensure we can keep our residents as safe and supported as possible. Never has this work been more important than it is now. However, we’re also looking for the silver lining and how we can ensure that communities come through the crisis stronger and more united than ever.” 

McCarthy & Stone, by far the country’s biggest specialist retirement developer, has seen many examples of staff, suppliers and residents working together to keep their spirits up and keep healthy and safe. 

Among them are hundreds of the company’s sales and building staff (whose daily roles are currently less needed) have volunteered to switch into extra support roles on their developments, helping with food deliveries and other essential services (not specialist care services, of course). A care worker at its Southsea development, who has voluntarily moved into one of the spare apartments so they can reassure homeowners and provide around-the-clock care, if needed. 

Across all sites, McCarthy & Stone has set up a Buddy system to partner every resident with someone who can help ensure they get the help and supplies they need. The company launched the ‘Send A Smile’ pen pal initiative, which encourages isolated groups to communicate and connect with each other.

At some developments, a ‘daily wave’ has been organised, with all homeowners waving from windows and balconies to feel entertained and connected to their neighbours. There are also quizzes for residents, where the house or estate manager posts quiz papers under peoples’ doors and then give homeowners three days to call their neighbours and families to collect the answers.

McCarthy & Stone has also partnered with and are offering free talks online for all homeowners from Mirthy, who provide an online and in-person platform to connect those in later life to remain active, social and connected. 

PegasusLife and Renaissance Retirement have introduces their Stronger Together to help overcome the restrictions of self-isolation and social distancing. It is inspiring hundreds of school-aged children to write ‘pen-pal’ style letters to send to owners at their developments, who can then reply to share their own experiences of life. It is hoped that this initiative will generate lasting friendships and ensure regular communication. 

Mark Dickinson, CEO of parent company Lifestory, commented: “’Alone we are strong, together we are stronger’ is a core message that sits behind the Stronger Together campaign. Social distancing measures and difficulty of accessing family and friends mean that our owners, many of whom usually play a really active day-to-day role in our communities, are staying in their homes. Loneliness is already at epidemic levels among older people in England. We believe Stronger Together provides a great community platform to help ease the loneliness and isolation that people, of all ages will inevitably feel at this time.”

The Lifestory team also encouraged and helped many of its residents to take part in National Tea Day’s Virtual Tea Party on Tuesday 21 April. Diaz Ayub of National Tea Day commented: “Bringing people together to combat feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety clearly sits behind our partnership with [mental health charity] Mind and unleashing the unique power of tea has helped us to achieve our aim.”

Audley has launched a 'Together at Home' YouTube channel to help bring people together through a host of presentations and activities. They have also introduced Audley PenPals to get old and young communicating stories to each other as both groups deal with lockdown.

CEO Nick Sanderson and managing director of operations Paul Morgan both give viewers video updates. There are plenty of keep fit videos too, from stretch classes to Pilates and dance. 

Platinum Skies gave homeowers at its Vista development in Poole a novel experience when its Pilates coach Jodie Nielsen hosted a class from the landscaped gardens, which residents could follow from the safe distance of their balconies. She said: “I have been missing my class at Vista so much! I’m so glad the residents enjoyed it too.” 

David Hines, chief operating officer of Platinum Skies, said: “No amount of isolation can dampen the spirits of our community at Vista. They were able to workout together from their balconies, safely distanced apart, all while enjoying the beautiful view in the Spring sunshine. We are delighted that we can support our community by organising activities like this, to help lift spirits and provide light relief through this period.” 

Barbara Cox, head of wellbeing at Platinum Skies, said: “We understand that this period of isolation is likely to have an adverse effect on the older members of our society, who may be temporarily cut off from seeing family or friends due to the current social distancing guidance. Being part of such a large community, such as those at our developments, can make a world of difference, providing opportunities for connection right on the doorstep.” 

Prior to lockdown, Spencer McCarthy, founder, chairman and CEO of Churchill Retirement Living, spoke to our editorial director Rupert Bates. He explained that the company had already started re-deploying staff teams to deliver food and other essential supplies to Churchill lodges across the UK, supporting elderly residents in any way they can. Even older children of employees joined the collective effort, helping with shopping and other vital needs of Churchill owners. 

“It is so important everybody comes together at a time like this. Never has the expression community spirit been more apt or more important,” he said.

Eden Retirement Living have contacted all their potential purchasers to let them know that if they have any concerns, need help or just want a chat, its team are on hand. The developer is also in the process of sending out a newsletter to these potential purchasers, with a story writing competition and information on how Eden is providing support. The estate manager has also made himself available so he can make deliveries should it be required.

Debden GrangeDebden Grange

RVG is  has also offered the government use of vacant accommodation to support NHS workers, including 81 apartments and cottages at Debden Grange, its newest village near Saffron Walden, Essex, and ten recently completed cottages at Lime Tree Village in Dunchurch, Warwickshire.   

This is a big help to staff who require temporary accommodation in order to free up critical beds and support medical staff to self-isolate during the crisis.  

Will Bax said: “These are unprecedented times. We are focused on doing what we can to support our communities and enable the NHS and its amazing people to save lives.” 


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