How new bungalows could help tackle loneliness
PUBLISHED: 15:01 11 January 2019
A former Suffolk vicarage could become the key to combatting loneliness in older people if it is given the go-ahead by planners.
The Glebe Meadow Westleton Community Interest Company (GMW) is hoping to build a series of new bungalows behind the village’s redundant vicarage.
If approved by Suffolk Coastal District Council, the plans would see 20 bungalows being built for residents aged over 65.
“What we have found locally is that there are a lot of people over 65 who are living in accommodation that is not appropriate for their needs now,” said Sarah Quinlan, the project’s director.
Ms Quinlan said many older people still live in family homes, which may be too big for them after family move on or may be too expensive to heat.
“By providing single-storey accommodation, hopefully it will be a much easier environment for them,” said Ms Quinlan.
The vicarage itself would then be converted into a social hub for residents to share with a large kitchen diner in which to prepare large meals with a television room, laundry and games room also on the cards.
The building would also host guest accommodation for friends and relatives of those living on the site.
The group hopes that the shared facilities will create a social and mutually supportive environment for those living on the site - especially for those who may feel alone in their current setting.
Ms Quinlan said: “There’s still a stigma to say you feel lonely or isolated but it’s still a reality for many people’s lives.
“We want more of a community social feel to it, so neighbours are looking out for each other.
“Just that reassurance that if anything happens somebody will pick it up quite quickly.
“We can also help people with technology like how to Facetime relatives living in Australia,” said Ms Quinlan.
“A lot of time people don’t know who to ask about that.”
The group hopes that if the scheme works well in Westleton it could be rolled out to other parts of Suffolk, having already received positive feedback on the plans during their early stages.
GMW has recently signed an option agreement with the Church of England to buy the vicarage.
Now it has to wait for a verdict from Suffolk Coastal on the plans to see if they will be granted outline planing permission.