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]

Singing in Pilgrim Gardens

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?

Friendship cafe at Royd Court

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.

[i] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/13/elderly-should-housed-luxury-developments-spas-keep-care-homes/

[iii] (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/12158930/Biggest-annual-rise-in-deaths-for-almost-fifty-years-prompts-warnings-of-crisis-in-elderly-care.html)

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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