House Manager keeps retirees safe and happy through challenging times
It’s been a difficult time for us all over these past few months, but what has life been like for a House Manager of a retirement community for the over-60s during a global pandemic?
Gail Close, House Manager at our Shilling Place Retirement Living development in Purbrook, was thrown head-first into one of the biggest challenges she was ever going to face, but made it her mission to ensure her homeowners were kept happy and healthy during this uncertain period.
Gail explains: “I’ve always liked looking after people ever since I was little. My dad was a mental health nurse and my mum was a Sheltered Housing Warden herself, so I’ve grown up around care-giving people – I even remember going to the shops with my mum when I was young to buy things for her homeowners.
“I began working at Shilling Place in June 2019, and I love it. I really enjoy being here for the homeowners and giving them the support they need. We had started to grow and become an active community; we were in the process of making plans to get out and about, and we started looking into taking coach trips which lots of the homeowners were looking forward to. But when we all went into the first lockdown, our plans were put on hold and since then we’ve had to find different ways to help people stay connected.”
Gail has organised a number of treats for her homeowners throughout the lockdown periods. From fish and chips doorstep deliveries to a socially-distanced cream tea in the garden during the summer, Gail has done whatever she can to give the retirees a boost. And she didn’t stop there; at Christmas, together with homeowner Val Brothers, Gail went door to door dressed up as a Christmas tree to deliver mince pies, Bucks’ Fizz and small Christmas gifts to her homeowners, whilst playing Christmas carols, to spread a little Christmas cheer.
Gail comments: “We wanted to provide a little bit of Christmas magic in these unusual times, so we went for it in true festive style. I knocked on all the doors at once on each floor in my Christmas tree outfit and waited for the homeowners to come out of their apartments. Val then came around the corner to surprise them with a decorated trolley which was playing Christmas music and packed full of treats so she could hand them out at a safe distance. It was wonderful and everybody loved it.”
78-year-old homeowner Val Brothers, who moved into Shilling Place in September 2019, adds: “Gail really is the heart and soul of Shilling Place, we couldn’t have asked for a nicer House Manager. When she came to me and asked me to help deliver Christmas treats, I was delighted to be involved. She is always putting the homeowners first, and she will do anything she can to ensure we are feeling happy and safe. She’s also got a fantastic sense of humour, and you can guarantee that you’ll always have a laugh when you talk to Gail, which is just what we have needed to help us get through these difficult times.”
And it wasn’t just Gail who was handing out the Christmas gifts, as a number of homeowners rallied together to give her unique and handmade presents. One homeowner knitted Gail a little doll, complete with a face covering, bottle of wine and roses, and a number of homeowners came together to knit an entire nativity scene – from Mary, Joseph and Jesus, to the Three Wise Men, the Shepherds and even three sheep!
Gail says: “I was so touched by the gifts; I really wasn’t expecting them at all. I couldn’t believe how much time they’d spent knitting the different items! It was such a lovely gesture and I was so thankful.”
Gail has truly proven to be invaluable to the homeowners at Shilling Place over the last year or so, which is shown through the numerous five star reviews she has received from them on Trust Pilot. David Inker, 82, moved into Shilling Place in early September 2019 with his wife Sandra, and is just one of the homeowners who is highly appreciative of Gail.
David says: “When we first met Gail, she was very excited, which was really encouraging for us as we could already catch a glimpse of what our new community was going to be like, and we were looking forward to joining in.
“When we moved in, we were having some issues with our removal company, but we were lucky because Gail and the team came to our rescue. They calmed things down, gave us something to eat and glass of bubbly, and helped us sort it all out.
“These lockdown periods have been so frustrating for all of us, but Gail and the team have been extremely helpful. They really have done all they possibly can and I’m not sure what we would have done without them.”
Fast forward to today, and Gail is still trying to find ways to keep her homeowners safe, happy and healthy. She adds: “I go on the internet daily to try and find little activities that we can do that are safe and will help to keep everyone entertained, and I will continue to do that until restrictions are eased. I do believe these past few months have made us become a stronger community here at Shilling Place, and we will get through this together.”