FAMILIES of residents of a sheltered housing scheme set to close have spoken of their shock and sadness.

Sixteen residents and 15 staff are affected by the decision by Abbeyfield Winchester Society to close Orchard Close in Twyford because of falling numbers of residents.

Barbara Gibson, of Four Marks, whose mother Eileen is 95, and a resident for six years, said: “We are in shock. I have had sleepless nights because of the timing of the announcement. I understand the reason for the closure but we had no idea it was coming, so it is a bombshell.”

She added: “Though it is encouraging that they are looking to try and keep it open to autumn, I am worried that during this crisis, there will be people entering and leaving the building, such as removal companies etc. and the residents will have to travel around visiting multiple communities to make decisions on the suitability of different homes when we have no idea (without testing) whether the virus is lurking in the community.

“We had already decided to live an completely isolated life to protect ourselves and others, then to have this unexpectedly thrown at us without warning, it has resulted in high stress. My mom, a retired doctor, understands infectious diseases so is only to aware of possible deaths if they not got under control and at her age stability is really important at the time of a crisis.”

The home had been due to close in June but Abbeyfield said it will delay closure until the autumn.

Other families spoke of their sadness at the news. Sam Edwards, whose parents-in-law Eric, 95, and Rosemary, 88, Edwards have lived there for seven years, said: “We were very sad to hear the news. Eric and Rosie have always loved living at Abbeyfield and we have always found everyone treated them so well that we have never had any concerns. We understand that the decision to close has not been taken lightly and that several routes were explored to avoid this.”

Janet Galvin, whose mother Ruth Waddell, 92, said: “I was very sad to learn that Abbeyfield Winchester is closing but understand the reasons behind this. My mother will be very sad to leave all her friends that she has made in Twyford and all the staff and volunteers who have looked after her in Abbeyfield. “

Since the announcement on March 17, of the 16 residents, one resident has already found alternative accommodation and has moved. Another resident will be moving into a local care home, leaving this week.

The closure decision was expected to be agreed by society members at a special general meeting in April.

The charity says residents and staff are the priority. Residents will be helped to find alternative accommodation, and staff and trustees will support them and their families to make their transition as pain-free as possible.

Abbeyfield Winchester has struggled to halt falling occupancy over the past few years despite significant marketing and networking. This is against a backdrop of a changing market in housing and care for older people with many choosing to remain living independently in their own home for as long as possible and then making a move to a fully-supported care home or community from which they will not need to move again. While services provided by Abbeyfield Winchester include housekeeping, catering and general support, there is no care provision and no feasibility of introducing it.