A national military charity is urging pensioners who served in the RAF to act now to avoid future loneliness.
The RAF Association, the charity that supports the RAF family, wants retired personnel, their widows and widowers living alone to consider moving to one of its ready-made communities.
The charity runs three housing complexes offering independent living for people aged 60 and over. Each site has good access to local amenities and public transport. The provision of shared sitting rooms and gardens means there are plenty of opportunities to socialise with other tenants.
Mark Shields, Head of Care and Housing Services for the RAF Association, said the charity was working hard to tackle loneliness and isolation among the retired RAF community.
He said: “Office for National Statistics data shows that, sadly, the number of people experiencing loneliness in the UK is on the increase, and that single and widowed people are at particular risk.
“Our housing complexes offer ready-made communities where tenants have a shared background. Military training and duty tends to give service personnel and their spouses a particular approach to life. Being with like-minded people in retirement can help with socialising.”
All three RAF Association complexes, in Dumfries and Galloway, Leicestershire and Northumberland, offer flats with their own front door and access to communal areas. Tenants are free to come and go as they please, and an onsite manager is available on weekdays.
The charity subsidises the accommodation’s maintenance and running costs, so rents are affordable.
Former RAF communications specialist and ski instructor Shirley Malcolm moved to a flat at the charity’s Dowding House complex in the Dumfries and Galloway town of Moffat four years ago.
Born in West Yorkshire and raised in County Durham, Shirley served with the RAF in the various UK and overseas locations before settling in Sussex. She said: “Before moving to Moffat I was living alone and life was pretty challenging.
“I knew I needed to start a new chapter, and, thankfully, I heard about the RAF Association’s retirement housing. I immediately enquired, and I was invited to move in within weeks. The move to Scotland has given me like-minded friends and a new lease of life.”
Cathie Halkett, who was recently widowed, moved to Dowding House with her late husband, Robert, four years ago. They made their home in one of the charity’s handful of flats for couples.
Cathie said that, following Robert’s death, she had become acutely aware that life as a widow would be very different if she wasn’t part of the RAF Association retirement community.
She said: “People here have rallied round and made sure that I’m OK. Thanks to the friends I’ve made, there’s no need for me to worry about facing life alone.”
For more information about the RAF Association’s retirement accommodation, please visit: www.rafa.org.uk