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Waving goodbye to loneliness

NEW BEGINNINGS: Pannel Croft villagers Bernice and Earl Barrow welcome Father Christmas

GOODBYE LONELINESS, hello fun and friendship – that’s what residents at a special retirement village are celebrating as they mark their new Birmingham home’s first anniversary this Christmas.

The ExtraCare’s Pannel Croft Village in Newtown has transformed the lives of the people living within its confines since it opened just over a year ago. Most lived within a mile of the new development and are of African Caribbean or Irish heritage.

“Residents have made really good friends with their neighbours and we’ve also had three romances,” said manager Julie Talbot.

“It’s a genuinely warm and welcoming environment. We have Motown on our PA system in reception, jerk chicken on the menu in the restaurant and Irish folk nights take their place with reggae nights.

“Some of the residents here hadn’t left their homes for years,” she added. “They had no reason to. Their family and friends may have lived far away. They may have been frightened by the changes in the neighbourhood.

“Here they tell me there’s a reason to get up every morning. It’s a new lease of life. Most are talking about an increased sense of security and reduced isolation.”

By working in partnership with organisations such as Birmingham City Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and the Department of Health, Pannel Croft is able to provide a higher standard of accommodation and care than many other housing schemes.

The village itself is a micro-neighbourhood with a shop, café, restaurant, cinema room, a library, sports facilities, an IT suite – and even allotments.

Residents are offered up to 50 activities a week with opportunities to volunteer everywhere – from calling out the bingo numbers to working on reception.

Bernice and Earl Barrow, who welcomed Father Christmas to the village, said: “Living here has given us a whole new lease of life. It’s wonderful.”

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