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Jackie Perry, Assistant Director of Communities and Customer Service at Muir Group, shares how Muir adapted its supported living offer during the pandemic and how the learning from Covid is helping to shape services for the future.
At Muir we’ve been working hard like all landlords to keep our services for older people running during the pandemic.
Older people were one of the groups hardest hit at the outset of Covid 19, with tougher lockdown measures for those in supported living accommodation and increased risks to their physical and mental health.
In our supported living schemes, keeping people safe meant that there were lots of things that we had to put in place, including closing the communal lounge areas, restricting visitors, enhancing cleaning measures, and putting in place additional hygiene such as hand sanitiser. Our contractors could only do emergency repairs and we put letting our voids on hold.
Whilst essential, all these measures created huge challenges for our residents, and our priority at Muir wasn’t just to keep people safe, but to ensure that we helped them to look after their health and wellbeing as much as possible.
Before the pandemic we had already undertaken a review of our supported living accommodation and services because we recognised that the needs of older people are changing, and we wanted to ensure we were responding and providing homes that met their needs for the future.
We created Muir Living as our independent living service, offering older people’s housing and providing a positive lifestyle for over 60s across our four schemes, a total of 180 homes.
Muir Living focuses on four key areas: affordable and modern facilities; supporting residents to get the most out of life with the help of our independent living officers; reassurance to live independently through modern technology; and enabling residents to enjoy life and stay connected in their community through our Brighter Days programme, which helps to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
Impact of lockdown
Lockdown restrictions meant that we needed to reshape our services even further.
Key to our approach was enhancing the role of our independent living officers (ILOs), something which residents told us during the development of Muir Living was a really valued service because it gave them the security and peace of mind of having extra support should they need it, but with a focus on living as independently as possible.
Whilst this is sometimes seen as a more traditional approach, it continues to make a real difference to the lives of our residents, and during the height of the pandemic their role was crucial.
During lockdowns our ILOs had daily contact over the phone with all residents in our schemes, offering the opportunity for them to have a friendly conversation and discuss any concerns or support needs.
The creativity of our ILOs to maintain the connectivity and wellbeing of residents whilst observing all Covid safety and social distancing measures made a real difference in helping to tackle loneliness and isolation. They introduced everything from daily waves and dancing, competitions, quizzes, and virtual coffee mornings to butterfly trees, singing from balconies, virtual holidays, and much more.
We also recognised the need to ensure that we kept our staff as safe as possible for their own wellbeing so that we could continue to deliver services.
We worked as a team to assess and review what worked well and to continually develop solutions, in what has been a genuine partnership. This really helped to motivate and maintain team spirit and the sense that we were all in it together.
Learning from the pandemic
Whilst the pandemic and lockdowns have created unprecedented challenges, there has also been lots of learning and creativity, which has changed the way we deliver services for the long term and helped us prepare and adapt for a new norm across Muir Living.
For example, we’ve transformed our digital infrastructure within our independent living schemes and enabled residents to engage and keep in touch with their friends and loved ones in new ways. We’re now looking at how we can enhance this further in our schemes.
We’ve also been able to strengthen and develop the role of our independent living officers even further to support residents with wellbeing support and tackling loneliness.
What has really stood out has been the sense of community that we’ve been able to create within our independent living schemes, and the strength and kindness of both our staff, residents, and the wider community.
In an ever-changing world, above all else this is something we want to build on for the future as we work to create safe, vibrant, and quality homes for older people to enjoy life and live as independently as possible.