One of the biggest fears people have before moving into residential care is losing their identity. But many homes work hard to preserve the character of their residents. Robert Mair found out more.

In this article:

  1. A dedicated follower of fashion
  2. Life in a care home
  3. Mary Waterhouse
  4. Choices

A dedicated follower of fashion

For Betty Rowley, the 1950’s were a whirlwind of glamorous parties, haute couture and catwalk parades. A well-known model in the northwest of England, she was in high demand for fashion shows and modelling assignments, thanks to her elegant demeanour and flowing blonde locks.

Betty trained at the Lucie Clayton School - which has seen the likes of Joanna Lumley pass through its doors - before working as a fashion retailer at the Inghams store in Manchester. This, combined with her modelling work, made her a popular face at fashion shows throughout the region.

“It was a glamorous life, I suppose, but I just enjoyed wearing all those lovely clothes,” says Betty, who recently celebrated her 83rd birthday.

Life in a care home

Indeed, clothes played an important part in Betty’s life. And while she now lives in a care home in Crewe, fashion and style are things that still help define Betty’s character.

For many people, a loss of identity is one of the key reasons why they are reluctant to move into a care home. The thought that they would simply become another resident, indistinguishable from the others in the home, horrifies many – even if the level of care provided is otherwise excellent.

However, Betty is fortunate that staff in the home appreciate how important fashion is to her and have looked at ways to reflect this in her daily life. She chooses her own outfits – coordinated, naturally – and carefully selects her own jewellery. The only thing she can’t enjoy is regular trips to the hairdresser:

“I enjoy life as much as I can,” she says. “I used to have my hair done regularly, but now it is not so easy because I’m in a wheelchair.”

Mary Waterhouse

It’s a similar story at Ingersley Court in Bollington, near Macclesfield. There, Mary Waterhouse went back to the place she worked when she was a Land Army girl during World War II.

Mary worked at Fryers Nurseries in Knutsford, Cheshire, where she helped plant, pick and transport vegetables to market throughout the war. She also maintained the remaining rose bushes, which had helped build the nursery’s name.

Since moving into Ingersley Court, Mary has twice been back to the nursery – once to pick up her Land Army certificate and badge and once to take part in a 1940s jitterbug dance.

This helped reinforce Mary’s identity, showcasing her wartime achievements to staff in the home who, similarly, could see her as an individual due to her accomplishments.


For Nick Dykes, chief executive of CLS Care Services, which operates Ingersley Court, encouraging residents to choose for themselves is key to the group’s attitude for preserving their residents’ identity.

“For us, the key to maintaining residents’ individuality and identity is to involve them in decision-making processes,” he says. “As such, residents are involved in the development of their personal care plans and this involvement can range from staff asking them what their preferences are to residents recording their own plans. It all depends on how much a resident wants to do and is able participate in.”

Residents even sit on recruitment panels when the homes are employing new members of staff. “As well as making residents feel valued within the care home community, we find that this helps potential staff members to understand what the job is all about and starts them off on the right foot,” says Nick.

As well as helping choose the staff in the home, residents are encouraged to make day-to-day decisions related to simple tasks like dressing themselves. While Nick appreciates this can lead to difficulties with families – particularly if a once-stylish relative is dressed in drab, unflattering clothes, he believes in the home’s philosophy to “defend our residents’ right to choose.”