Roger Turner is Chair of the Residents’ Association at Lark Hill, an ExtraCare Charitable Trust village in Nottingham.
In April 2021, he was invited by the St Monica Trust to speak at a seminar, part of Housing LIN’s popular HAPPI Hour series, which was launching the report of a research project into what the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about how retirement village and extra care housing operators helped to protect the lives of their residents and staff. Known as the RE-COV Study, the work was led by the St Monica Trust, funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust and supported by the Housing LIN.
Roger’s story brought the research to life. We learned first-hand how the Lark Hill community had pulled together proactively from very early on.Susan Kay, CEO, Dunhill Medical Trust
The aim of the research project was to better understand the experiences of retirement villages and extra care housing during the pandemic, including the effectiveness of measures taken to protect the health and well-being of residents and staff.
Roger’s story brought the research to life. We learned first-hand how the Lark Hill community had pulled together proactively from very early on. A number of participants at the seminar asked if his story and learning could be shared more widely. Roger kindly provided his notes from his talk and these were his key learning points:
At the beginning of 2020, there was an air of growing uncertainty with what was happening in China, its potential effect on the UK and what to do about it. Once COVID 19 hit the UK it was a step into uncharted territory for everyone – from the government downwards…
It was in early March that Mick Laverty, CEO of the ExtraCare Charitable Trust sent a letter to all Residents’ Association chairs, detailing ExtraCare’s approach to lockdown. This was somewhat ahead of the government’s lockdown instruction, but importantly, he asked us all work together for the safety of the residents and staff…
As Chair of the Lark Hill Residents’ Association (RA) my mantra has always been that the RA works with the location manager as a constructive part of the team. We were fortunate in having a very dynamic manager in Emma Earle who immediately grasped the gravity of the situation and quickly marshalled her support team. Together we set about working out how we could manage residents’ expectations (not least because they needed to understand the strain under which staff would be working) and to lead by example.
Together we set about working out how we could manage residents’ expectations (not least because they needed to understand the strain under which staff would be working) and to lead by example.Roger Turner, Chair, Lark Hill Village Residents’ Association
As part of the crisis response team, the RA was integrally involved in planning Lark Hill’s response. The key things we organised were:
- Street/community meetings. While residents had received letters setting out the steps to be taken and what could and couldn’t be done, it was clear that some wouldn’t read these or perhaps understand fully what was required. These community meetings proved to be really important in helping residents to understand, ask questions, allay fears and to let them know what help and assistance was available. It was especially important to reassure those residents whose families were living a distance away from Nottingham and who were feeling particularly concerned.
- To encourage residents to think of the whole 24-acre site that comprises Lark Hill Village as their garden. They were encouraged to wander around the woodland walk, sit and admire the views of Nottingham at the top, look at the wild life in the pond – all safe and socially distanced.
- To offer residents the opportunity to have a hot lunch delivered daily to their door from the village restaurant. There menu offered a wide and varied choice, and most importantly , residents felt they got good value at £5.
- The delivery of medicines from pharmacists to Lark Hill free of charge.
- To ensure that the village shop and fruit and veg delivery man were well stocked.
- The provision of a direct line contact for food orders from the local supermarkets.
- A protocol to accept and distribute deliveries of other goods that residents ordered online.
The key to our success was early planning, unambiguous tailored communication and a proper team-working approach.Roger Turner, Chair, Lark Hill Village Residents’ Association
All of this was facilitated by an “army” of resident volunteers and staff who delivered parcels, food and hot meals to residents’ doors. It was very pleasing to see that the volunteers got on with the work quietly and efficiently, with a real sense that we were all working for the good of the community: those confined to their apartments could benefit from a smiling face at their door. It did help, of course, that the weather was so good, with plenty of sunshine during the spring and summer. Our most difficult challenge was giving help to residents dealing with bereavements and end of life visits.
Our simple plan proved to be both effective and successful, with the majority of the residents understanding and accepting the changes. There are always the exceptions, but we live in a tolerant community and Emma, her team and members of the RA spent time with these few and gave advice and encouragement to help them to change their thinking.
While mental health and well-being may have been impacted by the national situation, I feel that this damage was limited by the general community spirit of the residents.Roger Turner
The key to our success was early planning, unambiguous tailored communication and a proper team-working approach. From the start, weekly conference calls were held for the Residents’ Association Chairs of all of ExtraCare’s villages to discuss the evolving situation, share problems and, most importantly, share approaches and solutions. Vital to the success of it all was the daily contact between the residents and Emma, the village manager, and her team.
Roger finishes by saying…
“While mental health and well-being may have been impacted by the national situation, I feel that this damage was limited by the general community spirit of the residents. I am even more confirmed in my belief that retirement communities are the future. They combine the ability for you to be independent, invigorated by your surroundings, with the support that only a strong and happy community can provide”.