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News 13 September 2017 l Community

Where cross-generational communities thrive: what’s the secret recipe?

On 11 September 2017, Hanover Close/Walk on Chapel House Estate in Newcastle upon Tyne celebrated its 50th anniversary. The atmosphere of the estate and the warm friendships seen at the 50th party were striking. Could this housing model hold clues to the key ingredients that  create and sustain cross-generational communities?

Building sustainable communities

The Chapel House Estate was constructed in the early 1960s. Its layout and housing stock were designed to create a sense of community normally only found in villages. A core 'hub' of facilities lay at the heart of the estate, surrounded by family houses, bungalows, flats and schools. This special mix has made Chapel House a consistent provider of housing and a close-knit community across three generations for over 50 years.

The estate is ideally situated just five miles to the west of Newcastle. A choice of bus services provides easy access to both the city centre and Gateshead’s intu Metro Centre. The beautiful countryside of Tyne and Wear and Northumberland is just nearby. The ‘hub’ at the heart of the estate is made up of small supermarkets, a hair and beauty salon, hardware store, bakery, fish and chip shop, estate agent, church, children's nursery and a cafe for older people. There is also a recently added medical centre. This hub has played a vital role in helping the village-type environment to thrive.

Residents of Chapel House are fiercely protective of their well-established and beautifully kept environment. Covering a large area, a stroll around the estate reveals mature gardens and well-maintained housing.

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In 2011, a community campaign headed up by the Friends of Chadderton Field resulted in an area of green space being protected as a village green. Many of the members of the group had lived on the estate since it was first built. An article in the Evening Chronicle at the time about their efforts showed the importance of open space and neighbourhood communities for residents’ wellbeing. The Chair also spoke of how his parents had owned their house from when it was first built. They had brought their children up there and now enjoy seeing their grandchildren also living on the estate.

Life at Hanover Close/Walk

Built at the same time as Chapel House, Hanover Close/Walk has 24 one-bedroom retirement housing flats for the over 60s. Residents range from early sixties to those in their nineties. There is a part-time estate manager, and facilities include a shared garden and residents’ lounge. The lounge was added to the estate in 2014 to create a communal area where residents could get together regularly. Many of the people who live at Hanover Close/Walk or are on the waiting list have chosen it because they want to be close to their children and grandchildren who also live on Chapel House. This has helped to reinforce the estate’s cross-generational history.

Hanover residents also benefit from a range of activities virtually on their doorstep. The local church behind the estate hosts an excellent lunch once a month and a monthly friendship cafe. The Mothers’ Union also organises an annual event that includes lunch and activities such as singing and poetry.

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Celebrating 50 years of Hanover

The event on 11 September was held in the residents’ lounge and attracted a high turnout of 30 people. Hanover residents and their family members, ward councillors Marc Donnelly and Pat Hillicks, and local residents from Chapel House enjoyed one another’s company over a buffet lunch. There was a raffle with prizes for all and a celebratory cake. The friendships and sense of community were plain to see, with everyone chatting and lots of laughter throughout. A couple in their early eighties who live in their own bungalow nearby were really taken with the atmosphere. They said they could see exactly why retirement housing can be so beneficial for older people.

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89-year-old Iris (pictured below) moved into the Hanover estate in 1991 and has lived there the longest. She admired the celebratory cake and spoke of the ‘lovely atmosphere’ at the event.

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There was also a warm welcome for Dorrie (pictured below, centre). She is 101 and used to live at the estate before moving out last year to have access to additional care.

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As the cake was cut, Councillor Donnelly - who supported the estate with the planning application for the residents’ lounge in 2014 - said: ‘Thank you so much for inviting us to this marvellous event. It’s a real asset to our ward to have Hanover here, providing such a well-maintained estate and great services. Well done, and here’s to another 50 years!’

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L-R Councillor Pat Hillicks, Councillor Marc Donnelly, Hanover resident Mary, Estate Manager Sheena Keenleyside

Councillor Pat Hillicks said: ‘We’re really thrilled to have been invited to these celebrations and to see so many familiar faces. The estate has incredible facilities and everyone is obviously really happy to be here. ’

Estate Manager Sheena Keenleyside, who organised the event with invaluable help from residents Mary and Jean, said: 'Chapel House really has a strong sense of community. I’m proud to be a part of how Hanover is contributing to the wellbeing of older people on the estate.’