‘People think it’s an old people’s home’ - Elm Park sheltered home residents out to dispell myths
18:00 12 July 2014
“This is not the last chance saloon,” says Mick Droy, as he sips a cup of tea, fresh from throwing a few darts.
The 70-year-old is a resident and committee member at Thomas Sims Court, a sheltered housing accommodation in Elm Park.
After moving in two years ago, Mick soon decided the community room at the Wood Lane home was in need of a makeover.
It now includes a pool table, dart board, bar and television - which all help to create the vibrant atmosphere that makes the place so popular with not just the residents, but their family and friends too.
“We had 42 people here for a pool night the other week,” states Mick. “Grandchildren came with their own drink, on a Friday night.
“The family members realise we are having more fun than they are! The women like to chat and watch the television, although we’ve had the World Cup on the last few weeks!”
One of Mick’s goals was to make Thomas Sims a more male-friendly environment - and to add to the three men who lived there when he moved in.
“The problem is people think it’s an old people’s home. A friend delivered a parcel here a few months ago and saw someone going out. He said ‘Is he allowed out? Has he got his own key?’
“People think of it as institutionalised, like 6.30pm comes and they throw the key away.
“We have our own front door. I come back at 2.30am if I am out with the family. It is superb.”
Of the 32 homes on site, there are now six male residents - an improvement, but not enough of one.
“This place is not the end of the road,” said Mick. “I used to live with my daughter and son-in-law. They wanted me to stay with them but I decided two years ago that they don’t want some old doddery bloke hanging around, and I visited this place. I thought I could crack it here.
“The beauty of it is you can sit in your room and think ‘I’ll go for a walk and have a cup of tea’ and there’s other people in here.” We give people a choice. We don’t force people to get out, we encourage them to.”
Mick forms part of the committee, along with Albert Medley, and married couple Peter and Doreen Cox. All decisions and proposals go before the residents - but having fun is the main ideology.
“It’s like a youth club,” said Peter, 69, a resident of five-and-a-half years. “We have social mornings, pool nights and trips out. We went to Southend last weekend. We do the gardening too.
“Doreen takes care of everybody. She tells us all what to do and we do it!”
The work of Havering Council has not gone unnoticed by Mick and Peter, who agree that “any” problems are resolved by the authority’s mobile support workers.
“I think this borough should be the flagship for others in the way they lean towards the residents in this scheme and others,” added Mick.
Cllr Damian White, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for housing, said: “I think Mike and the tenants at Thomas Sims are great examples of how you can create a community within a sheltered scheme. I hope that our open days at the end of the month gives further proof that there’s more going on than you might imagine”
There will be five open days and tours from July 31 - August 2. To book a place, call 01708 434668. Transport will be arranged and refreshments provided. Family members are welcome.