Culture and not religion.....
By Leon A Smith
September 20, 2012
As a long standing employee of Nightingale House (now Nightingale Hammerson) I’ve now chalked up some 39 Jewish (lunar calendar) new years! The new year is of course the time for making positive resolutions. Therefore, as I celebrate both the Jewish new year and secular new year, like so many of us I have the opportunity of making new resolutions and then promptly breaking them – twice during any 12 month period. This isn’t something which gives me an enormous amount of satisfaction – it just happens to be a fact!
Of course new year is also a good opportunity for reflection and looking back on the past year – and indeed past years. I obviously need to look back on many “past years” here at Nightingale House. During the years which I have worked here I have of course seen enormous changes and some of which I have oft referred to including change in the environment, change in clientele, but most of all the change in norms and expectations. As recently as 20 years ago residents were being accommodated in multi-bedded hospital type wards which was very much a norm and was common place throughout the care sector. 20 years later, it would be unthinkable to ask our residents to share their room with anybody else other than their spouse. When our charity created a new building with single rooms in the mid-1970s it was at that time looked upon by some as heresy. But standards and norms change. Now it is not considered heresy and in fact the rooms which we created in the 1970s are too small and in some cases insuitable for disabled use. This clearly creates a problem and one which we have to deal with as quickly as we possibly can. That is why we are about to embark upon a major refurbishment programme starting with the Ronson Floor – the 2nd Floor of our large red brick building at Nightingale House known as The Gerald Lipton Centre.
The project will provide much larger bedrooms, large wet rooms and a very considerable amount of communal space. Unfortunately this will have the impact of reducing the number of people that we can accommodate on that particular floor.
Doing nothing at this point in time is not considered to be an option!
Standards do not stand still. They are constantly changing and we are therefore constantly striving to attain those standards. No sooner is one building project completed then we are turning our attention to the next in the never ending pursuit of excellence for all of our accommodation. Whether one actually attains that level of excellence uniformly is debateable.
Not only do expectations change, social behaviours change as well. 40 years ago there was in place a fundraising scheme here at Nightingale House called the “52 Club”. This was an innovative scheme whereby sponsors/supporters were asked to cover the cost of a Friday night chicken supper. Furthermore the donor was then invited to come along to the supper to be present with residents for the Friday night meal. It was then customary for the diners to queue up at the end of the meal to thank the benefactor for his/her munificence.
The fact that the donors were prepared to give so generously and the fact that they were actually prepared to come and eat with the residents was admirable. However, in today’s world this practice would be considered to say the least patronising. In other words, why should our residents be expected to have to express their gratitude to the Charity. Also it was a time when entering into a care home such as Nightingale House (then called The Home For Aged Jews) was very stigmatised and 95% of residents were being supported either by local authorities or then DHSS! How things have changed! Today that particular social stigma of coming into a charitable care home does not exist and people from all walks of life and all socio-economic groups will come into our Home where they feel they can get the best possible standard of care.
Fortunately Nightingale Hammerson (Hammerson House and Nightingale House) is a provider of choice for many members of the community. One of our great challenges is not only to meet the standards and expectations of today but to try and forecast those of tomorrow. This maybe particularly demanding as we know that the demands and expectations of the “baby boom” generation as they come of age are going to be considerably higher than the generation that went before. As we know the “baby boom” generation is considered to be the “fortunate” generation in that they are considered by many to have much higher standards of living than their parents and possibly higher than their children.
The Rosh Hashana synagogue services at Nightingale House were greatly enjoyed by a large number of residents and indeed I was delighted it was necessary for us to move our synagogue services into our concert hall as the synagogue was not big enough! Once again, the attendance of so many people – many of whom may not necessarily be particularly religious – at the synagogue was further evidence of the cultural bond that binds our residents together. As I so often point out it’s often culture and not religion which attracts residents to our homes.
Finally may I take this opportunity of wishing all Jewish volunteers and staff working in our two homes a very Happy & Healthy New Year. At the same time I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of our staff and all of our volunteers who do so much to contribute towards the wellbeing and high quality of life which we offer to our residents.
Thank you also to all of our supporters and donors, without whom our charity would look very different.