Above: Michael Crowley, Mill Court Scheme Manager with resident John Pierce
Mill Court sheltered housing in Bandon offers great peace of mind to its residents. Keeping older people in their homes and communities and allowing them to maintain their independence for as long as possible by offering appropriate accommodation and support is what Clúid is all about. This not-for-profit housing organisation is leading the leading the way in delivering high quality, affordable homes to people in housing need all over Ireland. Mary O’Brien visits Mill Court in Bandon to find out more.
Clúid houses a total of 1100 tenants aged 60 and over: 670 in mainstream housing, and 430 in 17 sheltered housing schemes for older people. Mill Court in Bandon is one such sheltered housing scheme, which offers independent self-contained homes supported by an on-site Scheme Manager and a 24-hour emergency call system. It’s a safe and friendly environment.
“My job is first and foremost to ensure the wellbeing of everyone in the building,” explains Mill Court Scheme Manager Michael Crowley. “I’m also responsible for the upkeep of the property and responding to emergency situations.” Michael has been with the Scheme for over 12 months and has become a great friend as well as protector to the residents at Mill Court. Another part of Michael’s job is encouraging social activities and assisting in arranging and organising services for residents.
There are 37 apartments in Mill Court with 41 residents living there at present. Other services and facilities at Mill Court include a laundry room, communal lounge, wifi, monitored fire alarm, burglar alarm and secure door entry system for apartments.
As well as enjoying secure independent living, residents have the opportunity to interact at voluntary social activites organised by the resident’s association. There is a great community spirit with a Christmas get-together and spring outing already in the planning stages. Many of the residents have also become very involved in the upkeep of the grounds, taking particular pride in the garden. “The garden is a credit to them,” says Michael. “They have really taken ownership of it and it’s a great meeting place as well with great chats enjoyed over tea and cake after the work has been completed on a Saturday afternoon.”
Clare has lived at Mill Court since 2010 and feels very secure in her home. “They are such beautiful apartments. I feel safe here and I enjoy attending the social occasions here,” she says.
John spent 13 years working in the UK before ill-health forced him to return home to Bandon. “It was difficult moving back,” he says, “as many of my old friends had moved on. But Mill Court is a nice place to live and I enjoy mixing with local community groups.” A few years ago, John along with many of the other residents of Mill Court took part in a photography project, which produced some stunning photographs, many of which decorate the common space walls of the building today. John kept up this interest in photography and is often to be seen snapping pictures of wildlife along the river or interesting signs and posters that he passes on his walks around Bandon town.
A new research report, ‘A Home for Life: the housing and support needs of Clúid’s older tenants’ commissioned by Clúid and carried out by a team from the Centre for Gerontology and Rehabilitation, University College Cork found that An overwhelming majority (95pc) of sheltered housing tenants said the design of their home met their needs very well or met most of their needs.
Clúid’s spokesperson, Simon Brooke said: “In relation to sheltered housing, we believe that if it could be reconfigured to keep people out of nursing homes, peoples quality of life could be greatly improved and the State could save a very large sum of money. If the needs of a sheltered housing tenant are such that they cannot be met by the sheltered housing they are living in, then the only option for the vast majority is a nursing home, even if they don’t need 24 hour nursing care. So there is a gap in provision between sheltered housing as it is currently configured, and nursing home provision.
“There is an urgent need to examine ways in which sheltered housing can be reconfigured to enable people to stay there longer, even as their needs become greater. Revenue funding is required from the Department of Health if these changes are to be made. It is important to stress that this would represent extremely good value for money.”
At the end of last year, Clúid asked residents to make a wishlist for 2016. “From making bathrooms more accessible to the resurfacing of the carpark to more social activities to getting beehives were just some of the wishes,” says Michael. “All of those wishes may not come true but the point is that Clúid listens to the needs of people and responds in a positive way,” says Michael.
The number of people aged 65 years and over is projected to increase from the 2011 level of 532,000 to between 850,000 and 860,700 by 2026 and close to 1.4 million by 2046. This rapid increase in the number of older people, with growing needs, presents enormous health, social and economic challenges for policy and planning.