A retired care home manager has given the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales vital feedback on the problems older people face in coping with aspects of everyday life.
Eighty-year-old Pat Farley was one of those on hand to meet the Commissioner, Sarah Rochira, when she paid a fact-finding visit to Cysgod Y Gogarth, a £4.2 million flagship sheltered housing development in Llandudno opened in 2015 by the Cartrefi Conwy housing association.
According to Ms Rochira, the information she received from Pat would be helpful when she came to write her next report on primary care in Wales and she promised to send her a copy when it was published.
The Commissioner, accompanied by North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood, stopped off there during a visit to the region to meet and speak with older people to find out more about what life is like for them.
Pat Farley has lived just around the corner in a Cartrefi Conwy apartment for the past two years and is a regular visitor to Cysgod Y Gogarth taking advantage of its community facilities.
Although she worked for most of her career as a State Registered Nurse and midwife, Pat spent a decade in the elderly care sector running a private care home at Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, so was particularly keen to speak to the Commissioner.
Pat said: “She is a champion for elderly people and it was good to meet her. For almost 10 years I was matron and then manager of a care home for older people.
“I was amongst the first to introduce respite care where beds are made available for people so that their carers can have a break and I also started up regular sessions in which residents of the home could take part in arts and crafts.
“Today I had quite a long chat with her about the problem people living alone like myself have with doctor’s appointments.
“There’s usually no-one to do it for us so like everyone else we have to ring up and try to arrange these when it’s often difficult to get through on the phone.
“I think that in this computer age they should have a system where they know immediately someone is living alone which would make it easier for them to get an appointment.
“Sarah Rochira said she was interested to hear my views and is going to send me a copy of the new report she’s doing on older people’s access to primary health care.”
Another Cartrefi Conwy resident who had a chat with the Commissioner was 78 year-old Renee Williams who lives at The Fron in Old Colwyn.
Renee is one of the stars of a photographic group launched by the housing association a few years ago which has gone on to stage a number of popular exhibitions across the region and win a number of special commissions and awards.
Focus on Photography won in two categories of the Arts and Business Cymru Awards 2016, and has also been invited by Llandudno Town Council to take pictures of entries in the Wales in Bloom and Britain in Bloom competitions.
Before sharing afternoon tea with them, the Commissioner explained her role to the large group who were waiting to see her in the community lounge.
She said: “We are a nation of older people nearly a million in number. You are the backbone of Wales, people who built this country, people who raised us, people who taught us and much more besides.
“I have a long job description but a very short plan and that is to stand up and fight your corner. I want to see you afforded the dignity and respect you should have as our older generation and that if you need care and support you get it.
“I can’t always win the battles I fight on your behalf but I will go down fighting.”
After meeting the residents, she added: “It been absolutely great to be here at Cysgod Y Gogarth. Where we live our lives is such an important thing and I’ve got no doubt that because people live here it helps them maintain their independence and to stay doing the things that really matter to them.
“When I walked into the room I could hear the laughter, the chatter and the buzz and that told me just how full of life the residents here are.
“It’s a privilege to represent older people across Wales who are still giving so much to so many and there’s still so much we can learn from them.
“What I’ve learned is that little things often make big issues, like the problems with doctor’s appointments highlighted by Pat Farley today.
“The information she gave me will help with my new report on older people’s experiences of primary care and I will be letting her have a copy.”
Nerys Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Older Person’s Engagement Co-ordinator, said: “It was a great honour to have the Commissioner here today and she said it was an honour to meet the people waiting to see her.
“I hope that what she has learned at Cysgod Y Gogarth helps her fight for their rights and to learn from them what it’s like to be someone getting older in Wales today.”
Mark Isherwood AM said: “It’s been lovely meeting older people with the Commissioner.
“This is a great facility giving people support according to their needs. It provides them with the dignity of having their own front door together with communal space.”
Cysgod y Gogarth replaced two ageing sheltered housing schemes – Llys Seiriol and the adjoining Llys Eryl – on the same site.
It features a diverse mix of 26 apartments, of one and two bedrooms, plus four houses, two with two bedrooms and two with three bedrooms.
Setting new standards in energy efficiency, it was planned with the emphasis firmly on the “people power” of how its residents want it look and be used.
Fronting on to St Andrew’s Avenue and designed to give the outward appearance of a row of traditional terraced houses, it has ground, first and second floor levels, with the upper floors being served by a lift – something the blocks it replaced did not have.
A key feature of the development is that it has been designed around a “community hub” area where residents can go to mingle with friends and enjoy a range of leisure facilities.