This morning I visited the Wynne Court sheltered housing unit in Hartland Road, Isleworth as the guest of three residents who had some repairs and maintenance issues to report.
Sheltered units are difficult to let out these days as people's expectations have changed since the 1970s, when many of them were built. Even at Butlin's hotels, in those days, it was perfectly acceptable to expect guests from different family units to share a bathroom and a WC but in this day and age it is considered one of the least attractive features of these small but tidy housing units. As a consequence of this they are not in as great demand as the rest of our housing stock.
What has always struck me about these places (we have four such establishments within a stretch of about a mile and a half in Isleworth and Syon wards, from Kirkstone Lodge to Danehurst) is not only the sheer dedication of the staff who manage them, but also the pride which the residents take in the appearance and general ambience of their dwellings.
During today's visit I was directed to a pathway which had become littered with the discarded fruit of a fig tree. "Usually we sweep it up ourselves every morning," one of the residents told me. "We just left it there this morning for you to see."
Bingo and social clubs, coffee mornings and outings are often also features of life in the sheltered unit.
The stigma of these dwellings being homes for "old people" is well wide of the mark. Some of the residents are indeed "old" in every sense, of course, but many others remain socially active and help to inspire a very real sense of community amongst their fellow residents. Until not very long ago our sheltered units were available to applicants over 55 years of age, which would have given me about another eight and a half years before I became eligible for one!
There is a lot the rest of us could learn from Wynne Court and other, similar establishments when it comes to maintaining a sense of community.