“Nice to see you all down here today,” says ‘Bingo Balls Dave’. “Are you ready to play?” He starts up his machine and a coloured ball pops out. “Okay, your first number today is seven and nine, 79.”
Bingo dabber in hand, I’m in the lounge of Brunswick Village, a 60-apartment extra care scheme for older people, completed earlier this year.
“Boris’ den, number 10,” says ‘Bingo Balls’.
I’m with Martin, a local correspondent for the Hand & Heart blog and a resident here since May. Originally from Artillery Court next door, Martin was unsure whether an extra care scheme was right for him.
“I’m generally quite healthy,” he told me earlier, “although I’ve had some health issues recently. And this is what this place is about. We may be independent now but, as time goes on, we might need more care in the future.”
Brunswick Village, it seems, has everything. There’s the bistro serving home-cooked meals that residents can eat in – or outside on the terrace – or take up to their flats. There’s a day care room where others in the community come for activities; a hair salon; laundry room; and a treatment and fitness suite.
It’s like a one-stop shop for older people.
There are lots of partners involved, all working together. The building is owned by Manchester City Council and managed by its housing arm, Northwards Housing. Local social landlord S4B organises the tenancies, sorts out any repairs and offers residents support with benefits and budgeting. And Age UK organises residents’ activities.
“Age UK are the animators of this place,” explains Martin. “They organise the craft clubs,” – there’s a whole exhibition of work on the bistro wall already – “and the weekly quiz and bingo sessions. The residents themselves organise trips out – we went to Blackpool recently – and regular social events.”
There are connections, too, with the nearby Manchester Museum which, although temporarily closed for renovations, brings artifacts to the ‘Village’ to spark discussions with the residents.
Martin is a keen gardener and a founder member of COMAS, that’s the Chorlton On Medlock Allotment Society. We can see his allotment from the upstairs roof terrace. “There’s space in the grounds here for a residents’ gardening project,” he tells me, “so we’ll be getting that going next year as soon as we can.”
It seems to me that Brunswick Village is a huge step forward in supporting older people. Isolation is a serious mental health issue just now, and places like the Village, and other similar schemes across the city, are at the forefront of combatting that.
The Village has knock-on benefits for other services too. Martin tells me three of the flats are for NHS use. “They’re for older people leaving hospital but are unable to manage in their own homes while they’re recuperating,” he says. “They come here until they’re fit enough to go home.” Brilliant idea.
Back in the lounge, Bingo Balls Dave is reading from another ball. “Legs eleven,” he announces, as someone whistles.
“House!” someone else shouts from the back of the room.
Brunswick Village is at 50 Brunswick Street
See the S4B brochure here.