Life carries on under lockdown at McAuley Place in Naas

Ria McGuire talks to general manager Mark Hazzard about the impact the first 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the thriving retirement and independent living community in Naas

Ria McGuire

Reporter:

Ria McGuire

Life carries on under lockdown at McAuley Place in Naas

Mark Hazzard of McAuley Place

McAuley Place, located in the center of Naas town, is a residential development of 53 self-contained apartments, dedicated to older people living independently and with engagement in their local community.

Located on the grounds of the former Convent of Mercy, and opened in 2011, McAuley Place also hosts an arts and culture centre, and café.

At the end of March last year, the Government advised people over 70 years of age to cocoon within their own homes due to the risk of contracting Covid-19.

Mark Hazzard, general manager of McAuley Place said: “Once we were locked down in March, there was a sense of panic in the world and there was no clear directive on what we should or shouldn’t do.”

McAuley Place is focused on independent living for its residents. However, as residents began to cocoon, McAuley Place staff onsite stepped in to assist.

“I believe our staff would be deemed to be frontline in a facility with elderly people living in it.

“At the beginning of April (last year) there was just three staff on site, and a resident volunteer, Mary Deegan, who manned the front desk from March until July — and this has more or less been the case since then,” said Mr Hazzard.

“We offered to make a hot dinner daily for residents at a minimum cost of €5, which quite a few of them were delighted with.

“We also did shopping for them and collected medication from chemists. Thankfully Naas First Responders then offered to do the shopping for our residents and delivered it to them, which was a great help to all of us.

“We also arranged that McAuley Place volunteers would contact residents on a daily basis, to see if they were OK and if they needed anything. The volunteers would then contact me to flag any concerns,” added Mr Hazzard.

From April of last year, McAuley Place also supported local artists by requesting them to perform in the car park of St Mary’s College to entertain the community’s residents from the safety of their balconies.

McAuley Place, Naas

“We had 35 artists that played over the course of April to July. Renowned soprano Celine Byrne was one of the artists to entertain the residents, which was a wonderful treat for them.’ said Mr Hazzard.

The Covid-19 restrictions also prevented family members from visiting the residents, so McAuley Place set up a live video stream of the events on Facebook, allowing relatives to connect with each other.

“That was the only time, for a number of months, that families were actually getting to see their parents and grandparents,” said Mr Hazzard.

Many of the residents decided to stay at McAuley Place over Christmas. The Christmas With Friends voluntary group from Newbridge, which has a long-standing tradition of providing festive meals for the elderly and those in need, arranged Christmas dinner for 10 of the residents.

“The residents committee of McAuley Place kindly arranged a large hamper for every resident and it was delivered to everybody’s front door before Christmas,” added Mr Hazzard.

‘There was a lot of camaraderie among the residents which really helped. Christmas was tough for them, but it could have been a lot tougher.”

Closed tea rooms

The Convent Tea Rooms is a main source of revenue for McAuley Place and it has also been impacted and closed for the majority of the pandemic due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“We had to diversify our business, like most organisations,” said Mr Hazzard.

“Firstly we came up with nationwide distribution of our Cakes by Anna products and are also supplying ten cafes in Kildare, which is all working very well.

“Our Tea Rooms manager, Anna Burke, is a fantastic pastry chef and all her products are being very well received by all that order them.”

McAuley Place is still closed to the public, but through the support of the community of Naas, volunteers from Naas First Responders, Naas GAA, St Mary’s College, volunteers associated with McAuley Place and Naas Community Garda Gary Cogan it has been able to survive and strive against Covid-19.

“From March 2020 to the present day, we’ve had one resident that has contracted the virus and has fully recovered, thank God,” noted Mr Hazzard. The future is looking positive for McAuley Place.