Winnie's world: Affordable independent living

Featured article - 04 September 2020
By Dasos Christou, Silva Homes executive director (customer relations)

Dasos Christou, Silva Homes executive director (customer relations)

They say fine wine gets better with age, but that’s also the case with birthday parties. There’s nothing quite like a birthday celebration to raise the spirits, and this became obvious during the lockdown for everyone at Silva Homes. Our colleagues pulled out all the stops to make sure that 100-year-old Winnie could celebrate her birthday in style, despite all the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Winnie lives in one of our affordable independent living homes – previously known as sheltered housing – in Sandhurst, Berkshire, and we’d been planning a big party to celebrate her 100th. The coronavirus pandemic sadly put a stop to the social gathering, but we were determined that nothing was going to stop us making a fuss out of Winnie. And so, with that in mind, our independent living team at Broadway House staged a surprise celebration, with social distancing measures in place.

"She danced from her flat window"

Winnie’s family gathered in the communal garden alongside her neighbours and the colleagues from our housing association, and gave her a socially distanced, two-metres-apart rendition of happy birthday. We even made a colourful banner which read: ‘Happy 100th birthday lovely Winnie! From all of us at Broadway House.’ As Winnie waved to her loved ones and danced from her flat window we knew this would be a highlight of what’s been an extremely tough summer for everyone, especially those in the care sector.

But it also epitomised everything that is good about our independent living homes, especially places like Broadway House. In simple terms, independent living is designed for older people – including those who are living with dementia - who want to be as independent as possible but need assistance with some aspects of daily living.

Broadway House has colleagues on duty and provides a freshly cooked meal every day. We are very attentive and carry out regular care assessments, as well as organising activities, but we try to enable and encourage independence as much as possible. Ageing is a gradual process, and most people don’t need to go straight from living in a two-bedroom house (with garden) to a care home.

There’s a mid-way period, where you can still organise your time and manage your own affairs, but maybe you want to live somewhere a bit less stressful, near likeminded neighbours, and with the option to take part in communal activities or get some extra help or if you want to.

Winnie, for instance, moved into her independent living home because her previous home garden was too large for one person and the garden was a challenge – but she wasn’t suited for a care home. She loves living independently and even now, aged 100, she doesn’t need any extra care.

The social care crisis has been one of the greatest challenges facing the UK since before Covid-19, and we hope the Government considers investing in independent living, managed by housing associations like Silva Homes, as a solution.

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