TUCKED away behind the parish church in Naas McAuley Place is a real hidden gem. The former convent building which now houses tea rooms, meeting rooms and an art space is part of a unique project catering for older people.
You could pass this building several times a week and not realise the hive of activity which is contained within, such is the way it blends in to its environment. However nestled away in this small patch of land in the town which blends seamlessly into the surrounding landscape McAuley Place serves a particular need. Noel O’Driscoll went along to find out what happens in this special place.
we get older a constant worry for many people is how can they continue to live independently in a secure and safe environment. 60 residents in Naas now call McAuley Place home. The first resident of the complex which has 40 purpose built apartments moved in July 2011.
Mark Hazard is the centre manager and Catherine O’Sullivan is the volunteer co-ordinator for McAuley place and they spoke about how the centre came into being.
“Marguerite Sloan had this idea that older persons should be able to live independently in the middle of a town and could perhaps be able to live in the community for longer, where otherwise they might have ended up in care. The old convent had been derelict and in the year 2000 it was acquired from the Sisters of Mercy;” explained Mark.
Sitting in the restaurant which was bustling with residents, volunteers and locals Catherine went on to explain how the project was funded. “Marguerite was a geriatric nurse and she was aware that 5% of older persons were in a nursing home and 3% of those shouldn’t be there. The Nás na Ríogh Housing Association was set up and the parish priest donated the land for the 40 apartments to be built. Marguerite lobbied day and night to get the funding together for the place to be built and funding was secured from the Department of the Environment Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) to allow the necessary works to be done. We are a registered charity whose mission is to provide independent living for older persons in the heart of the community.” Marguerite continues to be involved with McAuley Place as the chairperson of the board and she is also involved on a daily basis.
The local community has also played its part in making Marguerite’s vision a reality.
“There was a 5% shortfall between the CAS funding and the cost to open the facility which had to be raised locally. We had a gold classic called the Chukka Chukka golf classic which raised €100,000. This was a Ryder Cup style tournament with players from Tipperary against a Rest of the Wold side. We also had a concert and various other fundraisers over the years.”
Catherine went on to explain how it works for residents. “As people get older some are in houses which are may be out in the country, isolated and too difficult for an older person to maintain.
“McAuley Place works for people, because they have a home which is in the centre of the town and close to everything. It is also secure and we step in and carry out all maintenance that’s needed. They pay rent and pay their own bills.The rest is done by us for them.
“Tenants must be over the age of 65 to come and live here and they must have links to the town of Naas. A potential resident of McAuley Place must also have a letter from their GP stating that they are capable of independent living. 75% of the accommodation here is allocated through the social housing system and the remaining 25% is allocated privately,” said Catherine.
“Residents come and go as they please when they live here. This is their home and they aren’t answerable to anyone.
“All apartments have an open plan living and kitchen area, bathroom and one bedroom. Rent for a single room apartment is €90 and for a double it is €95 per week. To apply as a private resident €35,000 is paid as key money to McAuley Place and this is put into a holding account and drawn down in instalments of €7,000 over five years. If a person decides to leave the apartment the remainder of the key money is automatically refunded.”
Catherine’s is volunteer coordinator and she manages approximately 100 volunteers at the centre. Volunteers are key to the success of the McAuley Place project.
Catherine and Mark are two of just four paid employees. Paddy Maher managers the tea rooms while Anne Burke is the pastry chef.
Everything in the restaurant is home made.
“Everyone else is a volunteer and our volunteers work at either the reception, the restaurant, the kitchen or in the charity shop. We are always looking for volunteers and at present in particular we are looking for a driver for the charity shop to pick up and deliver items for us.”
The former nuns’ chapel is a thriving arts centre and is a fantastic intimate venue for concerts and gigs.
The centre has recently started hosting weddings and there are plans to develop a garden and a health through learning programme with an artist in residence. These are just some of the many innovations which are planned for a facility which is constantly evolving and innovating to meet the needs of their residents who are also friends of the volunteers and staff.