McAuley Place“I just said there has to be a different way for them and for us.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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It’s always a bad idea to get Ryan Tubridy started on cake. There’s just no stopping him: Banana bread but without the walnuts, either Pavlova or Victoria sponge will do, as long as the cream is super-fresh, either coffee or chocolate Swiss Roll are acceptable, but it’s the classic jam version he’s really after. Marguerite Sloan made the mistake this morning of offering Ryan his choice of cakes if in to visit McAuley Place, the unique community facility she founded in a disused convent in Naas.

20 years ago today Marguerite Sloan came up with the idea of providing housing for older people, not in some out-of-the-way home, but right in the centre of their local town. She imagined a non-medical facility, combining complete independence with easy access to everything that meets the social and practical needs of the tenants. Marguerite said achieving this was a triumph of hope over experience:

“I hadn’t a clue from Adam how to do it, but I had nursed amazing older people and my life had been gifted by being with these people, and I just said there has to be a different way for them and for us.”

Bridging the gap between dream and realisation took years, but the former nurse was driven to succeed by her conviction that older people deserve more than a life of increasing isolation:

“Some older people haven’t spoken to another human being for two or three days. Now think about it, if I left my dog Bran at home alone overnight, he would be barking because he needed human company… But we can leave older people home alone for days on end, maybe with somebody going in to them for one hour twice a week.”

McAuley Place opened its doors in 2011 and is now home to 53 self-contained appartments, tea rooms, a designer garden and much more. Crucially, its location in the centre of Naas means that residents can walk to access most services. Traffic with the local community goes both ways; the McAuley Place tea rooms with its home-baked cakes are a big draw – not just for hungry radio presenters – and the rooms to rent for sports and cultural facilities are regularly used by the locals. They even hold weddings in the former nun’s chapel. Marguerite says McAuley Place is reversing a trend towards social isolation which impacts everyone, not only the elderly:

“Are we actually incubating people for long term care simply because they’re not being stimulated, they’re not using their brains? And they’re not using their physical form, they’re not walking. They’re not getting up and out of the chair, walking up and down, getting out to meet people. And what a resource we are actually locking away from the rest of the community.”

Marguerite is a strong believer in the ‘use it or lose it’ principle and it’s informed her work and the development of McAuley Place. Now in her 60’s, she told Ryan she practices what she preaches:

“If you’re in Naas and you see this 60-odd year old woman walking on walls, it’s me. If you see a 60-odd year old woman going on an ordinary foot scooter, no motor on it, it’s me!”

Find out more about how Marguerite achieved her dream of McAuley Place and her tips for communities who would like to set up a similar facility in their area in the full interview here. You can also find out more at mcauleyplace.ie

Ruth Kennedy

 

© The Listener 2020

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