Located across the harbour from Portsmouth, Swan Court is one of Southern Housing Group's most well-regarded sheltered housing schemes. We meet some of its residents who tell us what living here is like.
Swan Court at a glance
There are 46 flats in Swan Court, which are home to around 50 residents. The Gosport-based development includes a well-used communal area, laundrette, car park, and outside spaces with gardens and ponds that residents help maintain.
Residents are active in organising social activities such as bingo, tai chi, quiz nights, crafting, seasonal parties, choir practices and regular trips. On Wednesday mornings, there is a raffle in the communal area; residents purchase tickets and the proceeds go towards buying small prizes for the following week’s raffle.
Dominique Farrar is Swan Court’s Scheme Services Coordinator, who since October has been based here Monday to Friday, from 10am-2pm. She helps residents with any questions they have about their tenancies, repairs, or how to access Group or other local services, and supports them with community activities. She also helps residents with any support needs they may have, including safeguarding, and is a valuable link between the scheme and Southern Housing Group.
Gosport in bloom
Each year, residents enter the annual Gosport in Bloom competition, and the many award certificates displayed in the lobby area are testament to the pride they take in their horticultural talent and the communal gardens they help maintain.
An unusual feature
Each flat has retained an unusual original feature: by the side of each resident’s front door are small shelves where delivered milk bottles would be placed. In the absence of delivered milk, residents now use these shelves to display personal mementoes, from soft toys and ornaments to flowers and words of inspiration, with each shelf a reflection of its owner.
“They just want to talk and know that someone is listening”
Last year, we set out to improve the service we offer our sheltered housing customers. We recruited dedicated Scheme Services Coordinators based at each scheme Monday to Friday to help residents access our repairs service, carry out health and safety checks, work to make sure they have access to local services, and support them with local community activities. It was a new approach mirroring the successful service we already delivered to our sheltered housing schemes on the Isle of Wight.
Since the new service went live at the end of October, these changes have already made a big difference to our sheltered housing customers.
One Swan Court resident, Jeanette, 77, said: “Dominique has been very, very helpful in every category. She’s told us a lot of things about benefits and things that we never knew about, or we wouldn’t know about, because we’re too old-laced and never asked!”
Sandra, 77, who also lives at Swan Court, said: “Dominique is such an outgoing character, she’s very gregarious, she likes people, and although she’s busy she will always chat to you about things, and she’s done an awful lot since she came. She has done a tremendous amount, and makes us feel we’ve got contact with the company.”
Before joining Swan Court in October, Dominique was based in our Portsmouth office dealing with general queries and lettings.
She explains how residents have reacted to her being there, and what she’s learnt so far about the needs of our older customers:
It’s lovely here, it’s a really nice place to work. Everyone likes to say hello and has made me feel very welcome.
What gave me a lot of confidence when I started was having previous experience helping Group customers. I think for this role it’s important to be a ‘people person’ and to be able to relate to people. Dealing with queries in a sheltered housing scheme tends to take a bit longer – you have to be willing to talk things through, explain them, and be patient.
When I first started, the residents asked me how I felt about helping them, given I’m a lot younger than them. Some of them were concerned about how I could relate to their needs and concerns because of the age difference, but we quickly got used to each other. Not long after I started here we had one very poorly resident who had specific safeguarding issues, and the process of moving her to a more suitable home gave them confidence that I could meet their own needs.
Since I started, I’ve learnt that the most important thing is to communicate well with residents. At the end of the day, they just want to talk and know that someone is listening. It’s really important to have a sense of humour, to listen to what residents are saying and then act on any concerns they have. The residents here are very vocal with their feedback, good and bad – if they like something or don’t like it, they’ll tell you!
“We like our scheme, we think it’s the best!”
Some of Swan Court’s residents have lived here more than 20 years and are openly proud of their home.
Sandra (above, left) explains: “We like our scheme, we think it’s the best! It’s a lovely place to live, the surroundings are lovely. I couldn’t possibly afford a place like this to buy. I like living here because I’ve got friends here and I have a social life I wouldn’t probably have otherwise. Even if Dominique’s not here, there is always somebody who will help you out if you need. And it’s just nice having social interaction with people. It’s very easy when you get to this age to become cut off from everything if you’re not careful.”
Jeanette (above, right) concludes: “This is the first time I’ve ever experienced sheltered accommodation and there should be a lot more of it. I feel more secure here, I’ve got very good friends, and we have activities – something to do – you’re not sitting alone with four walls, there’s always somebody around. You have to pinch yourself at times to make sure you’re really here, you know? I love it here, I really do.”