In 2014, Clúid celebrated the tenth anniversary of St. Joseph’s Court, Clifden. This sheltered housing scheme for older people was originally a convent owned by the Sisters of Mercy. Clúid worked in close collaboration with Galway County Council to redevelop the site and produced 43 self-contained apartments. Over the past ten years, this vibrant community has firmly established itself as a great place to live. Today, St. Joseph’s Court is a partnership hub that remains true to the ethos of the residents and the community they have built: To Have the Time of Your Life in the Prime of Your Life.
Here, we ask Housing Officer Kathleen Aspel-Mortimer what makes St. Joseph’s Court such a great place to live?
‘It’s simple. The residents’ rights and their decision-making powers are paramount. It’s all about respecting older generations and empowering them to use their age, wisdom and experience to contribute to the community they live in. The direct result of this is the creation of a positive, inclusive atmosphere that is matched by the residents’ sense of belonging and well-being.’
Who lives here?
‘We work in partnership with Galway County Council, Safe Home Ireland and other AHBs to house the right tenants, at the right time, in the right apartments. We have a wonderful mix of people living here. In fact, 20 of the apartments are allocated to emigrants that have returned home from as far afield as Boston, New York, New Zealand and South Africa.’
What’s the accommodation like?
‘There are 43 one- and two-bed, self-contained apartments here. With modern, open-plan living and dining rooms, each unit was specifically designed to encourage independent living for older people. There are also communal areas including a large lounge and kitchen. Each apartment is fitted with a panic button connected to an alarm system that provides 24-hour access to the resident night warden. These additional facilities ensure the tenants have comfortable and secure surroundings in which to socialise and entertain. Safeguarding access to family, friends and essential services is vital to the success of the community here.’
What’s different about St. Joseph’s Court?
‘For Clúid, it is so important that we enable our residents in sheltered accommodation to live for as long as possible in sustainable, good-quality, affordable homes in their own community. The key to achieving this is to provide a safe and secure environment with access to all relevant services and supports. I am delighted to say that many of the residents that arrived here in 2004 are still living independently today. In fact, four of them are over 90 years of age and are still very active members of the community.’
What happens on a typical day at St. Joseph’s?
‘We never really have ‘typical days’ to be honest. There is always something going on here. We have a weekly coffee morning; regular day trips; health and wellness events; an ongoing organic garden project; a recently established Men’s Sheds project; art classes; and yearly holidays. We work in tandem with so many wonderful external organisations, including local businesses and community service providers. The residents of St. Joseph’s enjoy everything from Meals on Wheels to the healing hands of the Happy Feet Chiropody Service. At the moment, all 43 residents are working on a ten-week quilting project that will be exhibited at Clifden Arts Week in September.’
What have you learnt from working at St. Joseph’s?
‘This project highlights how effective partnerships with local authorities and other agencies can empower older people. They can live independently for as long as possible, make informed decisions about issues that affect them and participate in their community. I would love to see more and more people benefit from the kind of life led by our residents here.’
What made the last ten years possible?
‘It has to be the residents. They have made this a great place to live. They are a fantastic bunch of people with a real zest for life. There are others to thank, of course. This project would not have happened without the support of Galway County Council. It has been a pleasure to work with their team from the very beginning. We have fantastic working relationships with so many organisations and societies. Safe Home Ireland; Intreo (formerly FÁS); the HSE; the Education and Training Board (formerly Vocational Education Committee); Forum Connemara; LEADER (Rural Development Programme); An Garda Síochána and Youthreach are just some of them. Last but not least, the people of Clifden are hugely supportive of our work here.’
St. Joseph’s Court is just one example of Clúid’s commitment to providing sheltered accommodation for older people right across the country. From Cork in the south to Donegal in the north, Clúid works in partnership with local authorities to provide almost 600 homes to those who want to remain living independently in a safe and secure environment with access to all the services and supports they need.
This development has led to very positive outcomes for the residents and has helped to reduce the Galway County Council housing waiting lists in the elderly and special needs categories over the past ten years.
St. Joseph’s Court is a popular housing option for many elderly people wishing to move closer to the facilities of Clifden town. This enables greater participation in the local community, which may not be an option in more isolated rural areas.
There has been excellent communication and co-operation between the management and staff of Galway County Council and Clúid Housing from the outset. We look forward to continued collaboration with Clúid Housing at this and other locations throughout the county in the future.Mary Quinn - Galway County Council