The Galway Glór group recently visited McAuley Place, a former Mercy convent transformed into the renowned housing and intergenerational facility, in Naas Co Kildare.
The visit had been advance planned with Manager Mark Hazzard who greeted us enthusiastically on our arrival and immediately led us to the Convent Tea Rooms for tea and delicious homemade scones.
We were instantly impressed by the vibrancy of the tea rooms particularly as it had the healthy mix of ages present in a high quality restored facility.
After tea we were met by Margharita Solan the original chair and inspirational visionary behind the centre. Margharita guided us through the facilities for the duration of our visit and explained that McAuley is a voluntary not-for-profit housing association with charitable status.
The vision of McAuley is “to bring older persons to the heartof a vibrant community”. It would appear that this vision is replicated across the centre’s facilities.
Flourishing arts and culture
We learned that 53 self - contained apartments are provided at McAuley. Apartments comprise of single and double rooms, fitted kitchen, open plan dining and sitting room with wireless internet and bathroom with level access shower.
What is truly impressive is that residents are located within the wider McAuley complex which includes a community centre, an arts and culture centre, a music room and a work in progress enchanting woodland garden.
The beautiful flourishing arts and culture centre which was once the Nun’s Chapel hosts a wide range of cultural evenings for adults and children.
We were lucky on the occasion of our visit to participate in the community choir for older people from around the area which takes place every week. Also we noted the spread of artwork exhibited throughout the complex all which contributes to nourishing the spirit, mind and general wellbeing of the senior residents.
Margharita informed us that the community centre in McAuley is used by over 30 different groups. We witnessed the intergenerational activities first-hand as we passed the afterschool ballet classes where young mothers with babies in buggies waited for their children.
Again we were struck by the whole energy percolating through McAuley which is such a positive experience for older residents.
United Nations principles
Elder provision in McAuley Place is benchmarked against the United Nations Principles for Older Persons. It is a natural recreational environment where “people can regain and maintain wellbeing” according to Margharita, where social inclusion for residents and the wider community is the order of the day.
We returned to Galway feeling uplifted that such a model of residential care can be implemented.
We know that huge financial resources and extrordinary committment are required for such an initiative and not in our wildest moment would Galway Glór consider taking on a similar project.
However, we are convinced that this type of intergenerational model could be rolled out at local government level, particularly where some religious orders are vacating residential premises and old school buildings in the heart of our city.
As we go forward in our advocacy activities Galway Glór will work to showcase this inspirational, energising, spiritual and inclusive model of residential care of the aged centre with our public repesentatives, service providers and community housing associations.
Every day is a school day and together we must all continue to share our learning.