The new apartments are designed to solve the problem of isolation and loneliness of the elderly.
After 60 years of providing housing and community support, Abbeyfield Belfast has opened a new facility, Harberton Hall, which represents a whole new concept of retirement living in South Belfast.
Many Belfast families are already familiar with Abbefield, which currently has about 75 residents. The non-profit organization was founded in 1960 and constantly focuses on identifying with people who live alone and feel isolated in their community.
We spoke with Niki Molloy, Managing Director of Abbeyfield Belfast, to find out where the Harberton Hall concept came from and what life is like for a growing number of its residents.
“We bring older people together and provide them with a level of support in an environment where they have fellowship, safety and security. We aim to reduce the isolation and loneliness of the elderly. Our goal is to create a stimulating environment where residents feel safe, protected and supported while remaining valued members of their community.”
Nicky explains that while the apartments at Harberton Hall are second to none, the shared spaces make the facility stand out.
“Everyone has their own beautiful apartment, but we differ in common space. There is a shared lounge, a garden terrace, a restaurant, a hairdresser, a coffee shop, and plenty of places to relax where people can meet. So, you have your own apartment, but when you go out, you connect with others and become part of a dynamic community.
“Everything we do here is an attempt to encourage people to come out of their apartments and greet visitors, friends and family so they stay. So instead of a routine visit where you just pop in for half an hour to see your mom, you stay for coffee or lunch or come in for dinner and you put that time to good use.”
Harberton Hall supports both residents and their families.
“We provide support so families don’t have to worry about bigger issues like fixing boilers, gardening or shopping; we cover it all so they can really spend time together in a beautiful environment and enjoy each other’s company.
“This peace of mind for a family is priceless knowing their loved one is safe and in a stimulating environment.”
Home Sweet Home
Harberton Hall is made up of 32 self-contained apartments, which, as Nicky explains, were purpose-built with the residents in mind.
“Great apartments. You have a video intercom system so you can see who is at the main entrance, the kitchen is fully equipped down to the dishwasher. The living area is a comfortable space; You choose the furniture and you have space for everything you need, including a sofa, TV and even a breakfast table.
“The bedroom easily fits a double bed and has a great wardrobe. In general, most people are downsizing, but you still need to keep what you hold dear. Therefore, we have tried to free up as much space as possible in the apartments so that they feel at home.
“The bathrooms are very modern. There’s a lot of space, and it’s all very cleverly designed. We also have two bedroom suites that are perfect for couples.”
Get to know each other
Opening their doors in January, Niki and her team have been steadily managing the intake of new residents and giving the new community a chance to settle in.
“We care about each person, and do not put everyone under the same criteria. It allowed people to get to know the staff and each other.”
She says that many residents bond over mutual interests, such as gardening and walking, not to mention a healthy rivalry with home bowling and evening bingo.
“There are different interest groups. For example, some residents enjoy gardening very much; and created some beautiful garden boxes for us. They also planted herbs for the kitchen so we could cook with freshly grown herbs.
“Twice a week we have a walking group and we have various exercise classes and theater and cinema trips, we have bingo on Saturday night which is very competitive.”
Food is a big part of the Harberton Hall experience. The on-site restaurant has a constantly changing menu where residents enjoy delicious food together every evening.
“In the evening, everyone gets together for a drink before dinner in the living room. This is the beginning of a conversation before dinner. It’s so sociable here and everyone is relaxed.”
“It’s an integral part of life with Abbefield; everyone comes to the restaurant for dinner. So we know that everyone goes out of their apartment at least once a day, socializes with others, and we know that they eat well.”
Those interested in a place at Harberton Hall should consider two main things before moving in: Do I want to live in a social environment? And can I move around on my own?
Nicky elaborates: “The main criterion is that the shared environment is the type of environment they want to live in. Harberton Hall is ideal for the person who enjoys interacting with other people. The only other criteria is that they can move freely in and around the building.”
Nicky says any interest in Harberton Hall is welcome, and that potential residents can find more information online or arrange a viewing.
“We have a website, a brochure, and then if interested people can come and arrange a viewing, we’ll be more than happy to give them an epic tour.”
Are you or a family member considering the next step towards retirement? Find out more about Harberton Hall and arrange a private viewing at harbertonhall.org/