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McAuley Place for older people

The game changer in city centre revitalisation
Naas / Ireland
Size of city: 
20 002 inhabitants


Sonya Kavanagh
Director for Services, Economic Development, Kildare County Council
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To ensure the quality of life of its older people and their independence, Naas (IE) developed an alternative model to the institutional residential care one. McAuley Place is a non-medical, intergenerational and not-for-profit housing association located in the city centre, its 53 apartments are allocated both socially and privately to 60 people. McAuley Place aims at bringing older people to the heart of the vibrant Naas community. Activities such as the popular Arts and Crafts programme, by attracting inhabitants of all age, ensure the social inclusion and integration of the tenants. Since 2008, McAuley has been providing an environment in which all stakeholders, residents, workers and volunteers (often students), can connect.

The solutions offered by the good practice

McAuley Place offers the following:
• It indicates the primary importance of operating to a Value-System. This is seldom the case in urban plan-making. Stating a value-system up front means you have to carry it through into policy, plan, and operational life;
• McAuley is driven by the UN Principles for Older People, indicating clarity in its philosophy and ethos, but also indicating how these principles are put into practice;
• McAuley offers a model of sustainable urban living, with a town centre location and a mixed-use campus, where culture operates as a critical platform, accessible to both resident and visitor alike;
• It has been achieved through networking a cross-institutional approach and leveraging vertical integration through support from government, local authority, local business, and community groups;
• In terms of both policy and operational fronts, McAuley Place strives to achieve horizontal integration through synthesising strategy which links social, economic and environmental perspectives;
• McAuley illustrates inter-generational participation through activities which draw in all age groups into an intentionally mixed programme.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

• McAuley Place is guided by a holistic thrust. It works to achieve an awareness of the total systems it operates within, is inspired by its vision of the shape of future success, and applies strategy, action and tools to achieve it;
• While working within a systems approach, which acknowledges the complexity of urban places, a thematic framework helps to structure this complexity, and suggests the need to achieve sustainability under key headings, e.g. social sustainability, cultural sustainability, economic sustainability, environmental sustainability, movement sustainability, and the spatial sustainability of urban form;
• Key areas of performance include the re-use of under-used and vacant town centre sites, the application of mixed land use, combining the diversity of complementary activities in a mixed programme;
• McAuley reduces the need for vehicular use, through its town centre location, which prioritises pedestrian access through walking and cycling;
• McAuley Place achieves environmental objectives through recycling, water conservation, sourcing local food products for its tea rooms, and by providing ecological green spaces.

Based on a participatory approach

Openness, transparency, and communication. It strives to create an environment in which all its stakeholders, residents, workers/volunteers, can communicate, connect, and collaborate.
• McAuley Place encourages and relies on a wide range of support from local government, local business and community group stakeholders;
• It is the practice in McAuley Place to encourage a wide cross-section of stakeholders to become available for interviews for media/research, etc.;
• High levels of participation in its Arts and Crafts programme reflect the critical importance of creativity, and help build a culture of social contact.

What difference has it made?

• The UN Principles on Older People hang in the foyer, the mixed-use campus sits around you; tea rooms, 53 apartments, Arts Hub, community centre, walled garden and Health through Learning Project [Phase 1];
• The events programme is real, varied, and very well supported;
• The tea rooms are a huge success, a bustling meeting point for the town, where young and old mingle, where wonderful food is served, and where up to 35 volunteers support the full-time staff;
• McAuley is a huge positive statement in a town centre which has suffered economically, and where there are many vacant buildings;
• It illustrates how top-down governance, and bottom-up community energy can combine to tackle what appear to be intractable social issues, e.g. the isolation and poor quality of life suffered by older people;
• The model of McAuley Place has drawn much interest from media and TV, and has been endorsed by the President of Ireland;
• Evidence of huge ongoing community support. Evidence of lived lives.

Why should other European cities use it?

• The relationship of society to its older generation is a universal issue. McAuley Place shows how this issue can be approached, and how existing poor practice can be challenged;
• It demonstrates an inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral approach embedded in a campus where the mix of residential, Arts Hub, community centre, restored garden and tea rooms creates the kind of rich ecology which produces daily minor miracles, and sustains mental health and human existence;
• McAuley is socially innovative, it has created a new kind of infrastructure, and it has done this by working in a cross-institutional manner, building bridges between top-down governance and a bottom-up “can-do” mindset;
• It has used a hard infrastructure from a past legacy and fused it with the soft infrastructure inspired by a value system expressed in the UN Principles for Older People;
• McAuley Place is an innovative contemporary institution which attracts and retains an impressive contribution from volunteers;
• Every city and every neighbourhood would benefit from a McAuley Place.