We spoke to Scott Sanders, director of Derwen about his ambitions for Wales’ only older people’s housing company.

What is Derwen?
Derwen provides housing and related services informed by the needs, aspirations and concerns of older people. We already offer a wide range of services designed to make it easier for people to live a healthy, independent life within their community and our ambition is to deliver new, innovative approaches to older people’s housing, always centred on the needs of the individual.

What does ‘Derwen’ mean?
Derwen is the Welsh word for ‘oak’. We worked with residents, staff and our board to come up with a name and a brand that captured and communicated our values and ambitions for the new company: Trust, permanence, strength and a positive sense of age and longevity.

Is Derwen starting from scratch?
Yes and no. Newport Housing Trust began looking for a company to join in mid-2013 and Seren Group was selected in November 2013 as the partner of choice. Charter Housing also spoke to its residents living in dedicated older peoples’ housing about the potential to join and they decided to transfer into Derwen.

What inspired you to create Derwen?
Our residents. We have wanted to find a way to specialise in older people’s housing and support but we didn’t have enough critical mass. Derwen starts work with more than 1,000 homes for older people and this is a solid foundation on which to grow and innovate.

Derwen and the Seren Group, of which we’re part, have a wealth of experience in providing homes and services for older people – ranging from homes with extra care to a specialist centre for early onset dementia.

Why do older people need their own housing company?
A key reason is changing demographics and the expanding older population. In Wales the median age has risen from 36.5 in 1985 to 42.1 in 2014 and is projected to rise to 43.7 by 2035.
We strongly believe that we owe it to older people to invest in service needs. We want to innovate and push boundaries in creating excellent services and homes for older people.
What makes older people different?

The same thing that makes us all different, individuality. But there are distinct challenges that many older people face as they age, such as sight and mobility impairment, digital exclusion, social isolation and financial instability.

Our resident panel is made of people with a wide range of career and personal backgrounds who all have a huge amount to contribute to shaping their housing company – they and our other residents also tend to have the time to really engage in their company and the wide range of events and activities we organise.

Will you move into a Derwen home when you get old(er)?

I hope so! There’s already a waiting list for our homes, which reflects how desirable they are but also the shortfall in suitable housing for older people. If we deliver on our ambitions, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to become a resident – but that’s a long way off!