Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
Latest stories from Pilgrim’s Friend Society
A newspaper picture recently caught my eye as one of the ladies in it is the dead spit of former Coronation Street character Ena Sharples – it’s the expression on her face, and the way she is holding a glass. The story is about the 1950s ‘Pit Stop’ diner that a care home has created for its residents.
There’s also the replica bus stop for patients with dementia at a hospital set up in a corridor as a ‘quiet and safe place’ to help prevent them becoming unsettled or anxious.
Often people with dementia try to make sense of the present by relating it to events in the past. In ‘Contented Dementia’, Penny Garner’s mother, a much travelled lady, made sense of being in the doctors’ waiting room by thinking she was at an airport, waiting for her flight to be called. It seems a small mercy, because in the past their identity was clear; they knew exactly who they were.
But, is this kind of deliberate, constructed reminiscence such a good idea? Most cases of people with dementia are those in their 80s and older, who’ve lived full lives for decades beyond their ‘pit stop’ days. Relating to them in conversation when time travelling is one thing – taking them back deliberately is another, surely? Environment is not the same as active therapy.
On the other hand, the replica bus stop is something in the here and now. People with dementia can feel that they are not quite in the right place; waiting at the bus stop meets that need, and gives a sense of purpose. I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts and experiences.
There’s a small niche in our care home in Wantage that is perfect for bookworms and writers whatever their age! It’s a corner tucked under the stairs with a desk, a typing chair and a typewriter, surrounded by walls lined with books. Except they’re not real books – it’s thick wallpaper where the books look so real your hand goes out to pull one off the shelf. My well-being index shoots to 100% each time I see it. There will be places like this in Heaven, probably with cups of tea. Knowing how much I love it, the maintenance manager has given me some of the leftover wallpaper and the address of the supplier. Now all I need to do is to find a free wall in my own home, which would mean moving the hundred or so real books…
It’s often said that younger people look to the future, and older people to the past. But older Christians have a much better option – they look to Heaven, to the future that lasts forever.
I thought I was dreaming when I read the headline, ‘Elderly should be housed in luxury developments with spas to keep them out of care homes,’ adding that government plans will see £76 million invested annually for the next three years in new homes such as these. [i]
I looked twice to make sure I was reading it properly and then peered into my coffee to make sure there were no dubious herbs in it.
The government doesn’t want to fund people for residential care. Instead, it prefers social care in individual’s homes in the community, though with local authorities receiving less central cash this isn’t doing at all well. Since 2011 there’s been a continuing rise in death of elderly people, with reports showing that they are ‘now bearing the brunt of a growing crisis in the NHS and cuts to social care, with women suffering the most.[iii]
But it seems that £315 million has already been allocated to projects which design ‘luxury developments’ of specially designed homes. 3,300 specially designed new homes have been built following previous bidding rounds. ‘One scheme in Manchester is using the funds to develop 135 flats for the elderly which have onsite facilities including a spa, beauty salon and a bistro. The plans also include dementia-friendly design, landscaped sensory gardens and communal function rooms.’ The care minister, Caroline Dinenage, said housing like this helped elderly people to maintain independence ‘We need to encourage far more of these types of developments. Communities likes these can improve quality of life, help more people live in the community for longer and keep the pressure off our health and social care system – something we all want to see,” she said.
Well, shine on Sherlock! We’ve had schemes like this for a number of years. Pilgrim Gardens, in Leicester won a clutch of awards in its first year (2012) for its design and environmental innovations, and attracted so many visiting housing experts, including government advisors, that the manager was thinking of charging for her time. Most importantly – people love living there. You can take the tour here – https://www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/pilgrim-gardens.
And Royd Court, our 58 apartment scheme in Yorkshire, is a thriving community that also benefits the wider community with, among other things, its dementia café and involvement in ‘Mirfield in Bloom’. You can see the video here: https://www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk/royd-court
Despite the success of our schemes and their national awards, Ms Dinenage seems unaware of them. Yet, wouldn’t it make sense to invest in the developers (PFS) of the ‘proven principle’ here?
Of course, the real ‘luxury’ for residents in our housing (and in our care homes) is that they are living in a caring, Christian environment. It’s like a scent of Heaven, from the moment you step through the ddoor. ‘I feel secure living here,’ said a resident of Pilgrim Gardens. ‘I can’t find the words for the support I received from everyone living here when my wife was ill,’ said a man at Royd Court. ‘It’s like being on holiday the whole time,’ said another, ‘you feel that the pressure is off.’ I think it would be great if we had schemes like these in every county in the country.
So the government is thinking along the right lines, even if it’s not seeing the whole picture. And while we may not benefit from its investment pot, we know that we can look to the One who ‘owns the cattle on 1000 hills’ (Psalm 50:10) and more.
In fifty years’ time there will be more than 20 million people over the age of 65 in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, with the biggest bulge in the numbers being people aged over 85. ‘What will that mean for our society?’ asked James, of TransWorld Radio news this morning. Some see it will mean more pressure on a ‘social care system that has been chronically underfunded for years and will not be able to cope,’ says Caroline Abrahams, director of the charity Age UK. Others say the same.[i]
But are they ignoring the fact that longer lives are a sign that people are staying healthier longer? That in 2066 people the 85-pluses will be fitter and more active than those around us today? A government report last year said that ‘Since 2000 to 2002, both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy have increased; the population is now living longer and spending more years in good health.’ [ii]
At a large Christian event last month we heard about an 84 year old who took up sword fencing at 80, and is now champion in four different regions. There are other senior adventurers – the 101 year old expanding her business by buying another sewing machine; children’s book author Judith Kerr publishing a new book at the age of 94, retired art teacher Douglas Higgins writing a book at the age of 100, and many more. Eileen Ash taught Yoga at the age of 104. ‘She said: “I’d like to know when I’m going to be old. Do you think it will be when I’m 105?”
It’s true that we are more likely to get ‘grumbling’ ailments as we age. But even dementia is being pushed back by healthier lifestyles. The number of new cases fell by a fifth over the past 20 years. The percentage of people estimated to have dementia dropped by 24% compared to what had been expected, with some experts suggesting it could be prevented. [iii]
So what will it mean for society, having more older people?
‘There is no typical older person,’ says the World Health Organisation. ‘Some 80-year-olds have levels of physical and mental capacity that compare favourably with 30-year-olds. Others of the same age may require extensive care and support for basic activities like dressing and eating.’ A major factor in preventing frailty in old age is care in the community.
In 50 years’ time if the trajectory of church work and faith groups in the community continues that largely involves older volunteers , it will go a long way to meeting the needs of frailer older people. Befriending schemes are already preventing much loneliness and isolation.
And the other benefits?
Older people are the glue that holds society together, said a WRVS report, ‘Rather than being a ‘drain’ on resources however, WRVS believe older people are a foundation to provide positive economic contribution and social glue to the country. And with this report, we’re showing how they’re doing it already.’[iv]
Seniors have much to offer. God designed old age on purpose, so He could hone the attributes in people that take decades to develop – wisdom, patience, maturity, the ability to take the long view, and more. What it means for our society in 2066 is that everyone will benefit. More silver heads could herald a new golden era.
It’s a long, hot summer this year, and we all want to keep cool. It’s especially important for older people. In the heat wave that swept through Europe in 2003 thousands died of heat -related illnesses. 3,000 died in Paris alone that August. Grandparents had chosen to stay behind as their families took refuge in the cooler mountain regions. Now, in the UK, there are reports of older people turning up in A& E with heat exhaustion.
My family lived in the Middle East for years, with wall-to-wall air conditioning. BUT there were also occasional ‘brown-outs’ when the electricity disappeared. Here are some of the ways we stayed cool that can help in the sizzling UK right now:
Sometimes, no matter how hard we tried, children (and some adults) developed ‘heat rash’ – small red spots, often in skin folds. It was called ‘Prickly Heat’ because it prickled – and you could get ‘Prickly Heat Powder’ to cool it down. You can still buy it here, at Tesco.
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is serious. Signs to watch out for are – when the person seems dizzy, weak and lacks coordination, or they are feeling sick, or have cold and clammy skin.
Also – don’t forget to look on the bright side! Talking with John and Rosie during Premier Radio’s breakfast show this morning, Rosie said some listeners had called querying whether or not it was to complain to God about the weather. John ended our thoughts on a brilliant note by reminding us that the Scriptures say we are to choose to dwell on things that are good, to deliberately focus our minds on them. Philippians 4:8 says, ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…’ (ESV)
Being sensible, we can enjoy the heatwave. We can sit in our gardens in the cool of the evening, under a tree (if we have one|); we have pure water at the turn of a tap, we have good electricity supplies to air coolers and fans, we don’t have to pile on layers of clothes, and sunshine has an uplifting effect on our mood. Just be careful of our seniors.
Christine and Colin Raggett had been missionaries in Botswana for many years when they contacted us through our website, www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk, asking if any of our care homes offered respite care. In case the term is new to you, respite care is a short period of residential care that offers carers a break from their sometimes heavy routines. Often it’s because they are not able to get a good night’s sleep. This was the case with Colin’s mother, Margaret. His father Douglas, a retired pastor, had developed dementia and she desperately needed a break. He came into one of our homes and Margaret was able to sleep through the night for the first time in several years. It made so much difference: she was able to carry on caring for him for a few more years.
Sometimes, elderly people come in for short breaks to be looked after, so they can gather their strength again. Looking after your home and yourself and your husband is harder at 100 than it is at, say, 60! Olive wanted a little holiday from the housework, and from caring for Fred, 103. They came in for respite care until they decided they liked it so much they’d stay on permanently. When Fred was called Home, Olive visited her son, 76, in Austria, accompanied by a carer.
During the holiday season, an elderly parent will come in for respite care while their son or daughter goes on holiday. Older people often don’t like travelling away from home. In the very hot summer of 2003, in Paris 3000 elderly people died because their adult children deserted the city for the cooler mountain country, but the grandparents wanted to stay at home. No-one knew the temperature would soar as high as it did – but had the grandparents been in respite care they would have been alright…
Residential care homes don’t always have vacancies for respite care. But an attractive option right now is our home in the seaside town of Brighton, If you know someone who could do with a break, either as a carer, or as an elderly person who would just like holiday from the house work and so on, you might like to mention it to them.
When Royd Court first opened in Yorkshire in 2007 the only splashes of colour in the garden were the lavender and roses, though there were plenty of shrubs. Over the years (liasing with the Landscape manager) residents have added flowers and plants that give colour all year round, and some of the shrubs have been cleared to make space for a herb and vegetable patch, with lemongrass, dill, fennel, cumin, and sage. They come in handy for the chef who regularly uses them in his recipes.
At one time residents were invited by a generous donor to choose a fruit tree that would represent the spiritual fruit mentioned in Psalm 92, “they will still bear fruit in old age”. It led to the idea of a ‘Bible Garden’, replete with the flowers, plants, herbs and shrubs that are mentioned in the Scriptures. Each plant would have a name tag and Bible reference(s). It’s a three-year project that will provide a treasure hunt: walking out with a Bible, reading the labels on the plants, and reflecting on the passages. Eventually there will be 51 plants: so far there are 31 in clusters of Broom, Lily of The Valley, Marjoram, and Myrtle.
Mirfield in Bloom
This year, for the first time, Royd Court entered the ‘Mirfield in Bloom’ competition, with 11 of the residents as part of the team. ‘It’s a lovely way of us being involved with the community,’ said manager Vicky Miller. The idea came from Tim Grace, chairman of Grace Landscapes, Royd Court’s contract gardeners. The green-fingered team regularly waters, ‘deadheads’, prunes, cleans the moss from between the small paving, keeps the planters tidy, and most importantly – sorts out the tea.
Vicky said. ‘We try to encourage all our residents to be involved, where ever possible. Our oldest resident, aged 103, helps to ‘deadhead’ from his wheelchair. Other residents are drawn into the garden to see what’s going on.’ And as if the plants aren’t enough, some ladies knitted flowers to be placed through netting suspended under the canopy at the Co-op in the town. One lady knitted over 100 flowers!
Most people passing by on the outside of Royd Court will have no idea of the beautiful garden in the centre. ‘It’s like a secret garden,’ said Vicky, ‘residents can be involved in their passion for gardening and it’s a place for meeting others, and for staff to have lunch and relax during breaks.’
‘Think again’ begins the headline in an article busting the myth that brains inevitably deteriorate with age. NOT SO, say scientists at Columbia University. They examined the brains of people who were cognitively healthy, who had died suddenly from a whole range of ages, and found that even the brains of the oldest contained thousands of newly formed neurons. New neurons are necessary for learning and coping with stress. Neurogenesis has been thought to cease after a certain age, but the study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, has shown otherwise.
It’s important, because as neuroscientist Duncan Banks at the Open University said, ‘Neurogenesis is thought to be necessary to prevent mental decay and decline. This study provides further evidence that mental decay and decline is not the inevitable process many of us think it is.’ (The Times, April 6, 2018).
The take-away message is from Columbia University’s Maura Boldrini, who said that neurogenesis is supported by lifestyle changes like social interaction, learning, exercise and diet. ‘These are all life changes that people could introduce to keep them healthy in old age.’
Perhaps a good idea would be for groups of people to take a brisk walk together, stopping for a cup of tea and salad lunch and then take a class learning a foreign language.
Four years ago Ralph Ireland could only dream of living again with Maureen, his wife of 46 years. She’d had to move into a nursing home, 10 minutes drive from where he still lived in the family home in Nottingham. He said, ‘Ten minutes drive away doesn’t sound like a lot, but a couple of hours visit each day is not how married life should be, is it?’
In August 2014 he went to look at Pilgrim Gardens, our retirement housing in Leicester, and shortly afterwards started the process of buying an apartment. It was a long wait, but the Irelands moved in in May last year, and began to live the dream. ‘We are celebrating our first anniversary here,’ he told Mandy Smith, Pilgrim Gardens’ Manager, ‘ a year in which we have also celebrated our Golden Wedding! The ‘dream’ I had has been realised – Pilgrim Gardens is ‘heaven on earth’ for us. We can be together and enjoy each other’s company. It is a quiet haven where friends and family can meet with can meet with us. We live within a structure that offers all the practical helps we desire to have. Each day we thank God for Pilgrim Gardens.’
This year is the 5th anniversary of the opening of Pilgrim Gardens. It won several national awards for innovative design and environmental initiatives, and in the first year was visited by so many teams of experts that the warden thought of charging them consultancy fees!
But more important than the certificates and awards is the contentment of the people living there. ‘My number of friends has doubled since moving, ‘ wrote one lady, who says she is now able to reduce the anti-depressants she’s ben taking for 20 years (with medical supervision).’It’s great to belong to an extended Christian family,’ she said, ‘We don’t always agree, but there’s a lot of love here. Since coming here I’ve felt more at rest in myself, than I have ever been. So much so I’m going to be reducing the anti-depressants I’ve been on for twenty years, starting this weekend.’
Building every new scheme like this has been a major step of faith for our executive and trustees, working, as we do, in a climate where government care funding is at the lowest it has ever been, with experts such as the Director of Adult Social Care Services saying that it is on the point of collapse. Nine local authorities have warned that they will be unable to meet their obligations unless they receive more money.
Yet we’ve seen God answer prayer on so many occasions! Right now we’re fundraising for a new home in Chippenham, Wiltshire. Recently our CEO, Stephen Hammersley and his wife Susan got out their old tandem and did a sponsored 200 mile cycle ride from their home near Luton to the new site in Chippenham.
You can still donate by going to https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tandemhammersley. Who knows whether you, or your loved ones will one day find themselves dreaming the same dream as the Irelands!
Each day we thank God for pilgrim gardens. We are content.
What do you do when you are Chief Executive of a Christian charity facing a £18 million bill for renewing three of its care homes at a time of austerity and falling funds? The first thing that Stephen Hammersley, Pilgrims’ Friend Society CEO did was to make the needs known to God (Philippians 4:6). The second was to let everyone else know, so that they could have the satisfaction of helping (Galatians 6:9), and the third was to get on his bike, not once, but three times!
In 2016 Stephen and his son Philip cycled over 450 miles in four days between Pilgrim Homes in the North. Then in 2017 they cycled a similar distance between the care homes in the South. They encountered potholes, punctures, a major frame failure and some challenging weather, although Stephen said the warm welcome they received at each home made it worthwhile. The Pilgrim Home in Leicester even baked a cake with an iced bicycle topping!
This year Stephen had the backing of his wife, Susan, quite literally, as they rode their 40 year old tandem bike from their home near Luton to the Leonora Home in Chippenham, in Wiltshire. Susan was the navigator with a satnav at the back, and they mostly cycled over minor roads and tracks. Some drivers tooted encouragement when they saw the charity sign on Susan’s back.
PFS has recently acquired a site for a new home in Chippenham, and, together with supporters, Stephen and Susan committed the site and plans for the new home and its community links to the Lord. After leading devotions and having a party with residents at the home they cycled on to their daughter’s home in Pool, and their son-in-law took them, and their tandem, back home.
The cycle ride from Luton took three days, 18 hours and 29 minutes. They cycled an average of 10 mph, though the tandem was frowned on by one speed sign when it reached a top speed of 33 mph. (It went into reverse when challenged by a large farm dog barking furiously on a narrow farm track.) Every two hours they stopped for a tea break and a physical stretch. Several people came up and made donations at some of the tea stops, leading Stephen to question whether a good cup of tea enhances generosity.
There was no rain, but the weather grew hotter and hotter, and the last day was the first of the current heat-wave. Stephen said, ‘we bought the tandem about five years ago as a bit of fun. We’d never ridden it further than around the villages close to our home – this was the first long-distance journey. We thought we might need counselling after four days of such close teamwork with me always at the front and Susan doing the navigating from the rear, but we were relieved that we discovered that we pedal well in tandem!’
To donate , go to https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/tandemhammersley. Or, if you prefer, you can go to www.pilgrimsfriend.org.uk, and donate through the website, reading more about the charity and its work at the same time.
A white haired lady stands in a summer-lit garden, with a serious expression on her face. She is holding a placard up to the camera, and on it is written in large words – ‘I’m not ready to die just yet.’ The ‘not’ is heavily underlined: the lady is making a point.
She is Mrs Ann Lloyd-Sherlock,(80-something) mother of Peter Lloyd-Sherlock (52) Professor of social policy and international development at the University of East Anglia. He specialises in the social protection, health and the wellbeing of older people in developing countries.
He is commenting on the recent report by The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) calling for action to tackle ageist attitudes and undo the media clichés that promote them. He said that he didn’t think that ‘we are getting to grips with it as an issue.’ [i]
He is so right. RSPH research found that almost a third of the public believe that loneliness is a inevitable part of growing old and a quarter of 18 to 34 year olds think it is normal for older people to be unhappy and depressed. Two out of five 18 to 24 year olds believe there is no way to escape dementia as you age. Typical ageist thinking …
The RSPH is calling for a number of actions, including an end to the use of the term “anti-ageing” in the cosmetics industries and for Facebook to include age as a protected characteristic in its community standards on hate speech. The cosmetics industry won’t change until customers stop buying, although it does make you wonder who really believes claims that certain products can’ stop the signs of ageing.’
In my book, ‘What’s Age Got To Do With It?’ I quote an expert who said that at the heart of the problem is the acceptance of the doctrine of the perfection of youth. Yet, he observed, ‘We possess culture because our ancestors had the wisdom to distinguish vigour from value. They saw, as we so often do not, beyond mere physical strength and grasped the virtues hidden within the necessity of growing old.’
Perhaps we ought to teach more on what God said to Samuel, when he was looking for a successor to Saul and judging Jesse’s sons by their looks. God said to him: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
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Christian providers of respite, residential, nursing and dementia care. Also retirement apartments for assisted living and for extra care housing, and fully equipped houses for missionaries' home leave.
We share our experience and knowledge at seminars and conferences, at national and regional level.