THE pensioners of Primrose Court are a happy, close-knit community.
They spend a lot of time together, socialise. and help each other through the challenges of their twilight years
Most have already lost their partners after a lifetime of marriage.
But now they are fighting to make sure they don’t lose their friends next.
The residents of the sheltered care complex and pals who travel regularly from elsewhere in the neighbourhood fear their common room will soon be shut thanks to dwindling council budgets.
They worry it will leave already lonely elderly – some approaching 90 years-old – completely cut off.
The Primrose Friends Group has already helped members stop crying, come off antidepressants, and find new leases on life.
A common room and laundry facilities at the site are likely to disappear because Glasgow City Council last year withdrew funding for housing support services in sheltered housing.
The building is run by Whiteinch and Scotstoun Housing Association, but the room and laundry is staffed by Loretto Care, which is losing the funding.
Housing bosses said they are working to find a solution, which would include putting washing machines in each home.
But residents said they would prefer keeping the common areas.
They make sure to pay £1 each visit, insisting they’re not looking for something for nothing, merely what they deserve for a lifetime of work.
When you’ve been married for decades, a few years widowed can still feel “recent” and the loss is palpable when members of the club talk about it.
For others, their families are grown up and abroad in some cases.
And they credit the friends for wiping away the tears and giving a focus to each week. They cannot underplay the importance of the group to their wellbeing.
Theresa O’Donnell, 74, is secretary of the club, despite not living at Primrose Court.
“It’s getting me out of the house,” she says. “Sometimes I feel a bit frail but coming here is quite important to me. I would be in the four walls otherwise.”
Jean Mackie, 89, says she gets a lift to the Whiteinch centre because there’s nothing for her in Blairdardie.
Jenny Gorry, 86, recently moved to Primrose Court and feared she would be cut off from everyone. But instead, she was sent Christmas cards by her neighbours and started going to the common room activities – and that made all the difference.
Kathleen McGinley lost her husband three years ago, just three weeks short of 50 years together. She wasn’t going out and struggled with the loss.
It took more than two years to get the 74-year-old to the Primrose Friends Group – her first club, ever.
“My husband was not one for going out so I stayed in, all the time with him”, she said. “I didn’t bother going out. I found it hard to face joining a club when he was gone. I went for counselling and they said I had to try to mix with people. It’s a very hard step to take. Gradually I realised I was fine. This group makes a terribly big difference.”
The club is run jointly by Pat and Rae McCarthy, a couple who found love again in later life and are determined their friends will continue to have a place to meet.
Pat was married 52 years to his first wife before she died, and says he was 18stone 10lbs when he met Rae. He proudly states she got him down to 15stone 4lbs.
“I have a new lease of life,” says the 80-year-old father of 10. “When I met Rae, I told her I was just waiting to die. If I hadn’t met Rae, I would be dead now.”
Rae is a determined campaigner, offering deep concern for the fellow residents if the space disappears.
“What’s going to happen when she doesn’t have a place to go for a cup of tea?” she says of one member.
Rae says family is family, but when friends die, the elderly can feel very isolated. But in the club, you can’t shut them up.
“The doctor gives you a pill for depression but they don’t need a pill,” says the former care officer and mum of two. “Their friends are better. I have never been depressed since I started this up – I’m too busy. They’re not financially miserable, they pay their way."
Councillor Chris Cunningham, who has taken up the case, said: “I hope that irrespective of the wider change in funding, the housing association can see the value of the common facilities as a place for older residents to meet and socialise, thereby countering the potential impact of social isolation that is common amongst this age group.
“I would also like to see the laundry facilities remain in use as sheltered flats are small and space for white goods is limited.
“In my dialogue with the association I will be pressing them to maintain these facilities, which are a community resource as much as a common room for a small group of sheltered housing residents, and which, with modest support would be a valuable asset for a great many residents.”
Karen McQueen, deputy chief executive and secretary of the housing association, said: “We are exploring options for activities within the common lounges. Our partner company, Whiteinch Centre Limited, is well placed to help up with this.
“These plans are not fully developed as yet as our priority for Primrose Court is to ensure everyone has laundry facilities within their own homes as the common laundry simply cannot operate safely without the on-site Loretto staff.”
One of the Primrose friends is Martha Bunting, who turns 90 in a few weeks. She used to go dancing but now stays at Primrose Court and uses the common room four days a week.
“These are all my friends,” she says.