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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

April/May 2014


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month

To view all of Jeanne's articles visit the Interest Index.




Not a day goes by without another story in the papers and on TV about horrendous care homes: Patients abused, residents left helpless. No wonder that many of us vow: “I will never, never go into a care home!”


But there are good homes and regrettably bad ones, writes LaterLife’s own Maggi Stamp in her March column on finding a good care home. Very soon after reading Maggi’s advice about the importance of finding a care home to suit your needs and interests, my son-in-law’s sister, who sits on the board of the Mary Feilding Guild residential home, asked me to come visit, knowing that I write on issues of concern to laterlife readers.

The Mary Feilding residential home, in Northwest London, a not for profit charitable organisation founded in 1877, is a home for active elderly people.


“Our residents on admission are fairly independent, both physically and mentally," Mary McGloin, the Director, told me. “This makes for a more active community than is usual in residential care homes, and one which can accept and support those older residents who have become more dependent over the years.”


This soon became apparent as I walked through the premises, two lovely period houses and two modern wings. In the sitting room I saw a group of older women and one man stretching in graceful tai chi poses. Two other residents were tapping into computers in the library.


It was hard to believe that the average age is 91. “The youngest resident is in her early 70s and the oldest is in her 108th year,” says Mary. “Many of our residents still maintain active busy lives, taking regular holidays and trips. Two of our residents, in their 90s, still continue to work.” They are living proof that even with a range of serious health and other age-related health problems people can live full and active lives in later years.


I am told that the writer Diana Athill is a resident here. And there she is animatedly chatting to a bearded gentleman at the dining room table. Perhaps she is discussing a new book with her publisher or talking to a friend revisiting lively past episodes in her very full and unconventional life. She’s the last person I would expect to see here given her emphatic pronouncements in writing on old age that she would never never go to a care home.


Like may older people she may have reached the stage where she felt she could not manage on her own or did not want to. The latest resident‘s husband had died a year earlier. She was not looking forward to managing their home on her own, dealing with maintenance and managing the finances in addition to the daily housekeeping tasks. My friend Diana, who is 90 this month, who lives alone, and with chronic back pain is not as independent as she once was. She is concerned that with aging maintaining an independent life style will be increasingly difficult. She does not want to as she says “burden her relatives or friends with her care.”


Although there is plenty of opportunity for activity and the availability of company within a congenial community, there is more than ample provision for privacy. For those who like to sit quietly in a comfortable chair to read there were a number of small sitting rooms. The windows looked out onto the well- tended flowering gardens.


Many of the residents were avid gardeners before they came. They can continue to plant and tend as they wish in specially allotted areas. For residents who wish to or are able to there are the attractions of the local village high street to enjoy. Many residents attend the University of the Third Age in the borough.

Those who fall ill but do not need hospital care are looked after in the home, either in their own rooms, or in rooms reserved for this purpose, near to care staff. While it is the Guild’s aim to care for residents all their life, it may happen that appropriate care cannot be provided. A suitable nursing home may be advised.

Although the Guild cannot accept people with, for example, bad mobility problems, regular incontinence, dementia or other mental illness. there are many good homes, says Mary, which cater for such requirements. Michelle Hanson wrote in last month’s Guardian of an award winning home in Hampshire which specialises in dementia. She was overwhelmed by the tender loving care and said, “In a few years I may well be booking in.”


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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

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