Jeanette is Home Manager at Southwood Court, one of our sheltered homes offering independent living for those retired from print and the allied trades. She spoke with us about life in the community and the benefits of living in an almshouse.    

What does your role entail? 

The first thing I do each morning is a welfare check on all of our occupied flats, to say hello to the residents and make sure they’re fit and well. Their wellbeing is really important to us, and although we don’t offer medical assistance or personal care like a nursing home would, these check-ins help me keep an eye on their physical and mental health and notice any deterioration. If so, we do help to try and put things in place to hopefully make life easier for them and increase the time they can maintain their independent living. 

I have a really great team on-site and a strong working relationship with Kathy, Home Manager at the charity’s other scheme, Beaverbrook House. We make sure to support one another in our roles and are always on the end of the phone if needed.  

What development works are being done at Southwood? 

Currently, Southwood is on course to complete a major project of upgrades to ensure that the residents have great quality accommodation. Most of the flats have been redecorated and the building has all new windows and doors etc. We have a great team of builders here who have got to know our residents well and understand their needs.  It’s like a little oasis here at Southwood, it’s quite secluded with plenty of trees and the countryside, but still close enough to local amenities and transport. 

What is the community like? 

Most of the residents here have a family connection to print, rather than having worked in the sector themselves. When any new residents join us, I ensure we have a little get together to introduce them to their new community, make them feel welcomed and hopefully transition them smoothly into living at Southwood. 

Before the pandemic, I held a walking club and also attended a training course to become a chair-based exercise instructor, which I hope to start up again soon. We hold frequent events from BBQs to fancy dress parties, quiz afternoons and bingo. We have a yearly Christmas lunch at one of the local hotels, as well as race nights, fundraising events for other charities, breakfast club mornings, and board game afternoons. There is plenty to get involved in if residents wish to do so! 

We know it was tough for residents during lockdown, so we made sure they had plenty of treats including cream teas, easter eggs, flowers, Christmas hampers, and fish and chip suppers, in a bid to ease boredom and lift their spirits.  

What do you see as the benefit to living in an almshouse? 

One of the main benefits is that it helps to combat any feeling of isolation that residents may have encountered outside this environment. It’s a community, and residents have the opportunity to become involved in activities if they want to. us that if there are problems with any aspect of their flats, staff are available to ensure that issues are rectified. 

We’re here to assist, when needed, by signposting to the relevant services such as medical and care, which could be more difficult living alone and outside of a community like Southwood. Residents’ welfare needs are our priority and we want residents to be able to live independently as long as they can.

Read more about almshouses and The Printing Charity’s rich almshouse history.