Cefn Glas extra care housing project – independence by design

A housing scheme for older people boasting an atrium and listing a beauty salon among its attractions is certainly not the usual set-up. But the Cefn Glas extra care housing project in south Wales, which has won an award for its design, has these features and others which make it worth a closer look.

It is an indoor village with 42 self-contained flats clustered around a central covered area or atrium, which is designed to create a neighbourhood effect. Most of the 46 residents have 24-hour specialist care and alarms as you would expect in an extra care arrangement, although 14 of the flats have sheltered status.

Charter Housing Association manages the scheme with Caerphilly Council as a partner. It was opened in February 2005 by Glenys Kinnock MEP. The care services are provided by Reach, a not-for-profit home care agency, which as well as Charter, is a member of the Seren Group, an alliance of housing and care providers.

The development at Blackwood near Caerphilly also has a restaurant, shop, library and computer lounge where two residents access the internet and have their own e-mail accounts. Residents have their own cooking facilities, but can also order meals that they can then eat in the communal area or in their own flats. Activities organised for the residents include a ceramics class, flower arranging, wood carving, card making, “scrapbooking” and bingo. People from the local community sometimes join the classes, which are run by the Workers Educational Association.

Residents organise trips

The residents have formed an association and they organise trips for themselves. Those people who are unable to go receive a present instead. The association also arranges entertainment by booking choirs and cabaret evenings.

Housing manager Claire Jones says the design of Cefn Glas (which means “green ridge” and reflects the view of the hills) has helped to foster a community spirit.

“People feel they can leave their front doors unlocked and there is a neighbourliness. They help each other and look out for each other. One gentleman does the shopping for some other residents,” she says.

Cefn Glas also has a day centre for elderly people from the community, run by the local authority. It gives residents the opportunity to mix with people from outside the project.

Jones says: “We try to build links – it is difficult to manage but we have people who come in from outside. The people living here like it, and it is good from their point of view.”

There is so much potential at Cefn Glas, she says: “We are buzzing with ideas and sometimes we have too many.”

Perhaps the best tribute to the success of the scheme is the progress made by some residents since moving there. Jones says: “We have people who came here after receiving 24-hour care elsewhere, and have now taken on their own roles here [helping with the activities].”

Planning a water feature

Using money the scheme won for an award, the residents’ association is now planning a new water feature in the atrium area. Residents’ association chair Don Cuff, 87, and his wife Lyn, 85 were the first residents to move into the development, and they occupy one of the sheltered flats. Cuff is co-ordinating the task of buying a water feature. He says: “We have already bought some umbrellas to create a summer scene, and we want to get some of the older people to gather round there.”

He is going to show various designs to the other residents to help them choose what kind of new feature they would like to see. Tea parties and soirees are planned once the latest addition to the “street scene” is in place.

Moving to Cefn Glas was an important step for the couple: “We were living in a bungalow and we had problems with yobbos. This is a haven for us,” he says.

His wife says the services are marvellous: “There is a laundry room, physiotherapist and you can have your nails or eyebrows done. We are spoilt. It is a lovely place to be and the people are very sociable.”

● Developer Fairlake properties built Cefn Glas using a design drawn up by KWL architects.

Awards run by specialist healthcare consultancy Pinders and Caring Business magazine recognised Cefn Glas as the best independent living scheme earlier this year.

Key Points

Cefn Glas is a 42-flat development (one and two-bed homes) with a mixture of extra care and sheltered services, which opened in 2005.
Main features are an atrium and neighbourhood effect created by flats aligned as a covered street.
The “indoor village” won an award for its innovative design and special features.
Facilities include a library, beauty salon, bowling area, computer room and shop.
A day care centre caters for 15 people, with most of the clients visiting from the local community.
There are 17 staff, some part-time. There is a housing manager and a care manager.
The scheme is a partnership between Caerphilly Council and the Seren Group (an alliance of care and housing bodies).

This article appeared in the 28 June issue under the headline “Life round the atrium”

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