Hi Keith. How have you been during lockdown?
I’ve been very well actually. I probably haven’t worried about it as much because I’ve kept myself occupied. I do so many hours a week in the village shop and I do quite a lot in the garden. So I’ve got to be honest and say really it hasn’t affected me that much at all.
So your routine hasn’t changed much?
The only thing it has affected is my hospital appointments. That, and I haven’t been going to my daughter’s or to my son’s. The medication I’m on lowers my immune system so I preferred to stay here rather than go out.
Have your family been visiting you here?
Yes, my daughter brings my groceries and my grandchildren have come to meet me outside the main entrance. I’m very fortunate to have most of my family living on my doorstep. That was the idea of coming here in the first place.
Tell us about your job volunteering in the shop?
Well, the beauty of working in the shop is I’ve been able to have regular conversations. There are quite a few gentlemen here that will come over in the afternoon and we’re able to talk about when we were in the forces or football, that sort of thing. I think they enjoy coming in and seeing me.
There seems to be a strong sense of community here. Do you think some people might have suffered without the support of people around them?
There are a few people that live here who only come down once or twice a week, mostly to use the shop. They just don’t leave their rooms unfortunately. It must be very hard for them being there all day long on their own. I know one or two of the widows that come to the shop are always keen to have a little chat with me, there are always some conversations to be had.
So what’s morale like in Bournville Gardens generally at the moment?
I think morale’s been pretty good actually. As I say, one or two people are getting a bit tired of having the lockdown, but you’ve got to abide by the rules haven’t you? I think the Extra Care rules have been very beneficial to the village to be quite honest.
Tell us about some of the rules.
They’ve got yellow stripes across the floor to make sure you’re two metres apart from people. You’ve got the queuing to get into the shop or to the hairdressers and only two people are allowed in the lift. It’s all very easy to follow. There are two chairs if you want to sit down while you’re waiting for the lift. Or you can go up the stairs and exercise your legs.
How do you feel about having certain facilities closed?
Well, of course, one or two people go to the gym every morning. They felt it quite a bit when the gym was closed. But, again, there are exercises you can do in your own room if you want to keep fit. I know it’s not the same as using the equipment but with today’s technology you can go online and get all sorts of programmes to dance or exercise to.
Quite a few people have been using the building itself to do their daily walk. They’ll start at the top floor, walk the length of that corridor, go down onto the next floor and work their way down like that. If you think about it, there are lots of ways you can adapt to get exercise if you can’t go out.
Do you think lockdown has had an impact on community spirit here? I know you’ve had a lot of your classes and events cancelled.
I’m sure it has for some of the residents. But through the Summer it was beautiful. We were able to go and sit outside – doing our distancing, of course. We carried out conversations and had talks out there for a couple of hours each afternoon. I think getting the fresh air into your lungs helps. It makes me feel better anyhow.
Are you still spending time in the greenhouse?
I have, up until the last few weeks. Of course, now there’s not much to do in the greenhouse apart from checking on plants that we’ve brought in for next year.
Has that space been important to you?
Very important. It’s always been a hobby of mine so it’s nice having the greenhouse. I never had one when I was living in my own home because I worked away a lot.
Do you think living here in the retirement village has been beneficial to you throughout lockdown?
Yes. I lost my wife just before I moved here and having the company here straight away was fantastic. If I’d have been in my previous home, I would have been completely on my own because my neighbours were working all day.
Has lockdown reinforced your decision to move to Bournville Gardens?
My word, yes. The only trouble is there are one or two people here that can’t seem to get the rules into their head – the distancing and wearing the face masks. They come in the shop and I have to say “Where’s your face mask?” Of course, one or two have early dementia so it’s very hard for them having to get to grips with it.
Do you think for those very vulnerable people living in a retirement community helps them?
I’m sure it has. I know it’s helped quite a few of the widows. They tell you they’re just happy to be here and they feel safe here. We only had one person die here and we’ve only had about four cases so we’ve been very lucky.
Aside from your shop work, what’s helped you through the lows of lockdown?
I’m very fortunate. I had a very wide circle of friends before I came here and we’ve still kept in touch on the phone and on WhatsApp. So you can look at each other and it’s been no problem, not for me anyhow. I know one or two people were getting a little bit fed up before. Suddenly, this week the dining room’s opened up again, so we’ve been able to go and have a meal. That’s been a big bonus for quite a lot of people.
What has been your lockdown highlight?
During the summertime and up until a few weeks ago, having the artists appear in the garden was my highlight. We could sit on our balconies or patios and listen to a concert for an hour. We’ve had singers, we’ve had bands, we’ve had players from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra here. Our DJ has started to do line dancing too. I think that’s been brilliant for us. And then we’ve had exercising twice a week which, again, you can do on the balcony or on your patio. So you know, we’ve been very, very fortunate living here. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now.
How important has Susie, your Events Organiser, been to your lockdown experience?
Susie is absolutely brilliant. She has been an absolute godsend to this village. She’s always working on different things and asking you whether you’d like to do this or do that. She works really hard for the village and we have a lot to be thankful for.
Have you had a lockdown revelation? Something that you’ve learnt during lockdown or a thought that you’ve had?
I’ve learnt that it must be very difficult for people who live on their own. I’ve been very lucky in the number of friends that I’ve got and I haven’t lost anybody close to me. I know obviously there are people that have lost their families and it must have been a terrible time for them. You do feel for them. So I do what I can to help people in the village that are on their own. Even if it’s just a little chat – what more you can do?
That’s it, but a chat goes a long way doesn’t it?
And I think a smile as well. Always have a smile on your face and it makes people feel better. This is the thing about all the staff and the carers here, they all seem to have a smile on their face, nothing seems to worry them.
They’ve been excellent at keeping us informed too. You couldn’t wish for better staff. They’re all very friendly, they come to the shop and talk to you. When they come into work, they always shout through “Morning Keith”. So it is like a big family here really, for me anyhow.
Have you been happy with your personal space – your home – over lockdown?
It’s been absolutely perfect. There’s nothing more I personally could have wished for. Actually, the only thing is storage but do I need all the things that I’ve got?
I’m very lucky in that I can walk straight out into the garden from my patio. I’ve been able to go out from about 4 o’clock in the Summer and you get the sun right on my patio – it’s been beautiful. And you get to watch people doing their laps round the garden in the evening time and that sort of thing. Having a lovely garden like this, what more could you want?
And during summer, when it gets dusk and the lights go on in the garden, you’d think you were abroad sitting in a hotel looking out the windows. Apart from the fact we haven’t got the sea.