Sheffield Woman Of Steel Kathleen Roberts is now inspiring the elderly to downsize their homes and upsize their lives, writes Graham Walker.
Kathleen, aged 92, is a leading campaigner behind The Star backed appeal for a £150,000 statue to honour women like her who kept the steel mills going in two world wars.
And she is also supporting a Remembering Heroes themed showcase of SYHA LiveWell services and housing for older people at The Meadows, in Sheffield, on Wednesday, September 24.
The Meadows and its sister scheme, White Willows, are assisted living communities in Sheffield, inviting the public to see how Sheffielders can age better by downsizing.
Kathleen, a resident of White Willows, says she did just that.
“After my husband died, I couldn’t cope with the garden and things,” she explained.
“I thought moving from a three bedroom house to a flat would be a big thing, and it did take some getting used to, but I’ve made some nice friends here. We have some good parties here, too.”
Kathleen’s apartment building includes a cafe, hair salon, essentials shop, chiropodist and well being support services. If she didn’t want to, she’d almost never need to go outside.
But she isn’t one to stand still. She’s aging better by keeping active and staying connected to her passions and people
“I get out and about as much as I can. I don’t sit in here and worry,” she said.
“The thing is to keep on the go and have other interests outside. I love walking and dancing (though I can’t do it as much as I used to), and I get about doing things for Women of Steel. I don’t know what I’ll do when this fundraiser is finished; it’s kept me going. Find another campaign, I guess.
“We have coffee mornings and we chat and meet up with people. Since it’s all just downstairs, it’s easier if you’re not getting about much.
“Living at a place like White Willows, you feel safer. You know that if you take ill there’s someone there to see that you’re attended to. On your own, if you take ill it might be no one knows for days.”
Joanne Radley, of LiveWell’s Support 55, says they went for a Remembering Heroes theme to tie in withe the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
“We think our older customers are national treasures,” says Joanne. “They not only defended our country on the front lines, but they also kept our factories going and gave their aid and support wherever they could during a devastating time.”
“Many of our customers are the heroes of yesteryear, the men and women who achieved victory in two World Wars, and we are proud to offer them a bit of comfort, security and fun in their old age.”
Also being showcased at the Open Day, Support 55 is a personal assistance service available to anyone over age 55 in Sheffield.
The LiveWell residents and Support 55 customers are digging through their photo albums and treasure trunks to share their own mementos of the war era.
The Open Day will feature their shared memories, live music from the times, a proper old-fashioned tea, and a bit of fundraising for groups such as the British Legion and Women of Steel.
“You can also see how older people can keep their independence and receive the support they really need at the same time,” Joanne said.
“We work with people to sort out budgets and benefits, get proper healthcare, make their homes safer -- or look at moving house if need be - everyone has their own specific circumstances, so we don’t bring in a fixed programme. It’s all up to the customer to say what they want, and we just help them make it happen.”
One of the most important benefits of supported living is reducing loneliness and isolation.
“As you enter this phase of life, your house can suddenly seem too big and your social life is too small,” Joanne said. “We help people turn that around -- downsize your house, upsize your life.”
* If you are interested in learning more about services and housing for older people in Sheffield, visit SYHA’s Open Day at The Meadows, 30 Busk Meadows S5 7JH, Wednesday, September 24, noon to 3pm. Or call SYHA LiveWell on Sheffield 0114 2900 250 to ask about South Yorkshire Housing’s extra care housing for Support 55 services.
* You can donate to the Women Of Steel justgiving appeal at www.justgiving.com/womenofsteel - CLICK HERE.