Fulfilled living in later life
Building for a future of Christian care

Thursday 28th January 2021

Building for a future of Christian care

Our Renewal Programme is an ambitious £46 million project which will include the building of six new state-of-the-art care homes over the next ten years. Maureen Sim, our Director of Operations, and Andy Walsh, our Director of Property Services, shared the vision behind these plans.

Back in 1807, a group of believers were shocked when they discovered some older believers living in pitiful conditions, with some ‘so distressed as to be almost starving with hunger, and destitute of clothing or any bed to rest their infirm limbs except a little straw on the floor’. They resolved to care for their older brothers and sisters in a Christ-like manner and our organisation, then named The Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society, was formed.

While times have changed, our vision to care for older Christians and provide them with opportunities to live fulfilling lives remains at the heart of our organisation. “As Christians, we have a duty to ensure that people in old age are shown the respect and have the dignity they deserve,” says Andy Walsh, Director of Property Services. “We are all made in God’s image and that doesn’t change with age or condition. We are called to serve our older brothers and sisters.”

The built environment can have a big impact on how we care. “We recognised some time ago that we had aging properties,” says Maureen Sim, Director of Operations. “Our prospective residents and their families are looking for high-quality, well-presented buildings, as well as a high standard of care. The expectation today is for good-sized bedrooms and en-suite facilities, which many of our older properties don’t have.”

The homes planned as part of the Renewal Programme will replace some of our older properties and increase our capacity to care for older people who want to live in a Christian community. Some of our existing homes will also be refurbished. Middlefields House, Chippenham, is the first major project to be undertaken, due for completion in Summer 2021.

Caring for all

As the aging population increases, so does the demand for high-quality care. As an organisation, we are also caring for increasing numbers of people living with dementia. To help ensure we meet their needs, the development of our new buildings will be informed by research from the University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre, renowned in the field of dementia care.

“Research shows that the best way of caring for older people is in a small-scale domestic environment,” says Andy. “When you bring down the scale, it encourages engagement, and staff build closer relationships when there are fewer people to communicate with.”

In light of this research, Middlefields House has been designed to accommodate 48 residents split across four separate households of 12, with each household feeling like its own family. Two of the households will be specially designated to care for those living with dementia.

“Big spaces that are loud and noisy can be very distracting and upsetting for people with dementia,” says Andy. “For this reason, we’ve placed the catering kitchen and the laundry area away from the spaces where people will live.”

Instead of having just one big central lounge, the households at Middlefields House have been created with a number of smaller areas that can be used for different activities.

“There is nothing worse than going into a care home where people are just sitting around in a circle all day, with the TV blaring out,” says Maureen. “We all like to have people to do things with and in our homes we make sure there are the staff and spaces to make this possible.”

Homely features, such as fireplaces and kitchenettes, and outdoor spaces that are easy to access, will help older people feel connected.

“Laying the table before a meal, making and serving cups of coffee, or going out to potter in the garden, these are things older people have always done,” says Maureen. “We encourage people to get involved in these kinds of ‘family’ routines as they help people feel at home and bring back familiar memories.”

As the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted, good infection controls are of paramount importance. Having separate households means they can be isolated should any kind of infection break out.

Dementia-friendly surroundings

The décor of our new buildings will support those living with dementia. This will mean paying close attention to the types of flooring – for those with dementia, dark and light colours placed next to each other can give the appearance of a gap or obstacle, causing alarm. In order to promote accessibility, doorways will be painted in colours that contrast with the door.

One household for those with dementia at Middlefields House will have a twinkling ceiling to provide a calming space. The site will also include a Dementia Walk. This winding pathway between flowerbeds – with the occasional bench for those resting – will provide space for those with dementia to wander without experiencing the frustration of dead-ends. Colourful and sweet-smelling flowers and bushes will support sensory engagement.

Community connections

At Middlefields House, a community hub is being built, comprising a café, a hairdresser’s, a ‘winter garden’, and a children’s play area.

Those living with us can visit this hub, to meet family and friends, or simply sit and watch the world go by.

“When people get older they can lose touch with their local community,” says Andy. “We want to provide opportunities for them to feel part of things.”

We’re also praying that local people will see the hub as a space for them, with some perhaps even coming to work or volunteer at the home.

Spiritual life

Spiritual life will be central to our new homes.

“For the majority of people that we look after, church, Bible study and prayer meetings have been a large part of their lives,” says Maureen. “We don’t want them to lose this.”

As well as spaces within the households for daily devotions, Middlefields House will include a larger central meeting room where services, for example Communion or to mark Christmas or Easter, can take place.

We’re also hoping that volunteers from local churches will partner with us, to share their skills through activities and provide spiritual support. All volunteers will receive training.

“We sometimes find that churches struggle to support those with dementia because they don’t know what to do or say. They can be quite fearful of it,” says Maureen. “We have a lot of expertise in this area we can share.”

Next steps

With plans for Middlefields House well underway, our thoughts are turning to the locations for our further five new homes. As ever, we’d value your prayers as to where these will be and how we might work with local communities to bring these plans to fruition.

Could your loved one come to live at Middefields House?

To find out more, contact Neal Shelton-Green on 0300 303 8428 neal.sheltongreen@pilgrimsfriend.org.uk

Watch our fly-through video of
Middlefields House