And I thought retirement would be dull!

WHAT do the words “sheltered housing” mean to you? Does the phrase conjure up old people sitting round in a dull circle? Today JAMES MARSTON visits a sheltered housing scheme and finds the reality far removed from the stereotype.

WHAT do the words “sheltered housing” mean to you?

Does the phrase conjure up old people sitting round in a dull circle? Today JAMES MARSTON visits a sheltered housing scheme and finds the reality far removed from the stereotype.

OKAY I'll admit it, I thought to be in sheltered housing you'd have to be pretty desperate.

Who on earth would want to live in a place surrounded by loads of old people not doing very much?

It's not something I'd often thought about, but I'd imagined a sheltered housing scheme to be rather ghastly with a communal lounge full of old ladies knitting with just the occasional video or cup of tea to look forward to.

Today I'm almost ashamed of my preconception and the truth is I couldn't have been more wrong.

Most Read

Unlike a residential home, sheltered housing allows tenants to live in their own self contained flat and come and go as they please. Just the other day, at Servite House, in Trafalgar Close, Ipswich, residents were celebrating with an open day - celebrating not just how and where they live, but their Golden Years too.

Scheme manager Allison Cooper said finds it an interesting place to work: “I had a well paid job but it was so boring. It was the same every day, the same things and the same people. I always liked working with people and this job might not be so well paid but it is so rewarding. It's great to see people really come out of their shells when they move here. People often bloom.”

Now 39, Allison started managing Servite House which has 49 flats and 54 residents, just over three years ago. She said: “It's our job to make our residents lives as enjoyable and fulfilled as possible. “Sheltered housing is aimed at allowing older people to live as independently as possible and respecting their own life choices. People make their own decisions and they can decide how their lives are lived.”

Each flat is self contained, with its own bathroom and kitchen and residents can come and go as they please.

Allison said: “There are communal areas as well, where there is something happening every day.”

The list of activities is a long one and includes a large range of things to do:

Carpet bowls

Bingo

Darts

Scrabble

Films

Entertainment booked from outside

There is a social club which organises outings like pub lunches and trips to the theatre. There's a shop and a computer room, there's a hairdressers and laundry.

Allison said: “People can be involved socially as much or as little as they like. A lot of people here say it's a bit like living in a village.”

Opened in 1984, Servite House offers residents a degree of assistance as they face older age. Each room has a pull chord in case of emergency, there is 24 hour emergency assistance, and the scheme manager provides advice and information on the services and benefits available for older people.

Servite area support manager Lynne Huggins said most residents are over 60 and had found living on their own difficult for a variety of reasons. Lynne added: “Servite is a housing association and people pay rent. We accept self referrals and local authority referrals.

“We can't accept the seriously ill or dementia sufferers but if people become poorly we can arrange carers for them in their flats.”

Resident Peter French, shows me round. He has lived at Servite House for five years, said: “I had a three bedroom house which was getting difficult to maintain. I lived alone and I knew about this place as I used to come to see my cousin here. Moving here has been the best move I made.”

Kath Stephenson, 69, volunteers to run the shop for an hour a week. She has been a resident for four years. She said: “I love living here everybody is very friendly. We have a very good social life. It's lovely.”

As we continue our tour, Peter tells me what living at Servite House means to him: “Its hard to explain how much is going on here. We are always doing something. It keeps us occupied and it's like being in a large family. I thought when I retired life would be very dull but I was very wrong.”

In her flat which she shares with husband Danny, Cisssie White said she has never regretted leaving their house in Foxhall Road and moving into sheltered accommodation.

She said: “It's great for us to be looked after. We've been here two and a half years. I'm 75 and my husband is 77. We are getting older. My husband had some heart problems and I have osteoporosis which is a bit of a handicap.

“Living here is so much easier. It is comfortable and cosy and takes away all the worry of running your own house. I enjoy playing bowls and bingo and my husband enjoys the garden. There's always someone to talk to and it was a big relief when we made the move here.”

Cissie, originally from the north of Scotland, has little family left. She added: “I've been here 50 years and my relations are nearly all dead. Loneliness can affect a lot of older people and sheltered housing helps people stop being lonely.”

Out in the garden, Danny and chum Dennis Ling are busy in the garden. Danny said: “We have some lovely friends and we are very happy living here.

“I like gardening. It's something for all the residents to enjoy and keeps us busy.”

Dennis was keen to show me an outside entertaining area built by the duo. He added: “I love being outside and in the fresh air. We've managed to transform the garden for all of us to enjoy.”

For too long the older generation has been overlooked as people suffer care homes closing, dwindling pensions, hospital wards closing, and not enough carers in the community.

Our new Golden Years series aims to make sure that the older years really are Golden Years.

We will:

Listen to our older generation.

Fight for dignity in old age.

Make sure older people get the voice they need to raise the topics that matter to them.

Crusade on issues affecting pensioners.

Inform older people about the help and assistance available for them.

Dig out those inspirational stories that show old age need not be the barrier to a fulfilled and active life.

Champion achievement

If you have a story for Golden Years, call the newsdesk on 01473 324788 or, e-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk or write to The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter