An event has been held to showcase Ashford Borough Council's £17 million flagship sheltered housing scheme at Farrow Court as a pioneering way to address the emerging health and housing agenda.
Held during Dementia Action Week, the event provided an opportunity for a specially invited audience of frontline housing, health and social care professionals to hear how the council is achieving better outcomes for health and social care through all aspects of housing - such as its own building programme and homelessness prevention.
Guests included senior representatives from Kent County Council, Ashford's Clinical Commissioning Group, registered providers of housing and other local authorities in Kent.
Built, owned and run by the council, Farrow Court is a rarity in modern-day social housing provision for older people.
It is fully dementia-friendly and among the 104 units of accommodation are:
- 84 units aimed at enabling independent living for those aged 55 and over
- 12 units for people with learning difficulties
- Seven units within Homebridge, which provides recuperative care for those people who are well enough to leave hospital but who need a care package or adaptations made before they are able to return to their homes.
- This innovative approach has helped prevent bed blocking
- One guest room within Homebridge
The dementia-friendly scheme has been devised in recognition of the need to make special provision for the needs of an ageing population - by 2026 it is anticipated that around 40% of the residents within the Ashford borough will be aged over 50.
Following keynote speeches, around 40 guests toured the Farrow Court building to see the scheme for themselves.
They were addressed by Ashford MP Damian Green, Rebecca Wilcox, housing operations manager at Ashford Borough Council, Jenny Buterchi, partner at PRP architects, who designed the award-winning development, and Kent County Councillor Graham Gibbens, Cabinet member for adult social care.
Damian Green said that in previous visits it was obvious to him that those Farrow Court residents to whom he'd spoken were really proud to call it home:
"When you consider that someone's home is key to their sense of wellbeing then it's clear that Farrow Court is a huge success. It should be a model for other parts of the country to follow."
Jenny Buterchi explained that the needs of residents influenced every design decision taken at Farrow Court. This ranged from the provision of a variety of landscaped courtyards and gardens to encourage people to enjoy the benefits of outdoor living, to the focus on communal facilities (restaurant, residents' lounges, shop, hairdressers, therapy room) to bring people together to help combat loneliness and create a strong sense of community.
"Even the smallest design touches have made a huge difference. For example, a memory shelf as we call it is fitted alongside each front door for each resident to personalise with something that is important to them. It could be a flower display or a favourite ornament that says to them - ‘this is my home'. Rebecca Wilcox outlined the council's innovative approach towards delivering quality accommodation that meets the needs of local residents. "We are working proactively with partners to address the needs of not only an ageing population but also identify trends that enable us to adapt our homes to meet the more complex needs of our residents now and in the future," she said.
In praising Ashford Borough Council as a forward-thinking authority, Cllr Graham Gibbens said:
"Farrow Court is revolutionary and shows how Ashford has been at the forefront of innovations in this sector. I commend everyone who has been involved in delivering such a marvellous facility."