Retirement Living became the initial focus of Southern Cross Care NSW & ACT soon after it formed in 1970. Cardinal Gilroy Village at Merrylands West was opened in 1973 and today, still provides support and security for older people.
During the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions, human connection became a core human need and during ‘quarantining’, it was retirement village and aged care residents who felt that more acutely.
Joanne Barry is the Lifestyle Coordinator at Merrylands West and provided support and advice to village residents about the pandemic to help them stay safe.
Joanne developed activity packs to combat isolation and ensured residents always felt connected to each other and the community.
“Some residents said they felt a little lonely at times, but everyone has a good community environment with good friends here in the village, so they didn’t feel too isolated. I regularly allocated time to contact residents by phone to check in on them and see how they were coping, both mentally and physically.
I also engaged the help of others to reach out to their fellow residents during this pandemic which often resulted in some much-needed conversation and reassurance, and acted as a reminder that support was always close by,” says Joanne.
The importance of care and community cannot be overstated in a time that has seen ‘iso’ crowned as ‘word of the year’ in 2020 by The Australian National Dictionary Centre. Even in the best of times, ageing can bring a sense of isolation, and the pandemic has reinforced how important it is to have company and support nearby.
The look and feel of retirement villages has also changed significantly over the last 50 years. Stylish contemporary apartments with open community spaces are now becoming popular. Amenities can include a café, library, beauty salon and computer kiosks. And your wellbeing can be supported with services including onsite concierge, home care and residential care options.
For Marilyn, moving to the new Southern Cross Care Thornton Park retirement village in Penrith, was a much-needed change. “I recently separated from my husband so was living by myself,” she says.
“I was so bored at home because there was no one around.” In her new home, Marilyn is enjoying meeting new people as well as proudly introducing family and friends to her apartment.
Declining health is another concern for many older Australians, like Sylvia. “With my husband’s eye problems and my arthritis, we decided it was time to move somewhere we’d have support if we needed it,” she says. While these health concerns are not stopping Sylvia and Neville from living their life well, the location of Thornton Park makes it even easier for them to get to where they need to be.
Lorraine and Rob are enjoying good health but are finding great reassurance in knowing that, in addition to the retirement village, Thornton Park offers a residential care home. “It really puts my mind at ease knowing that, if Rob or I got sick or our circumstances changed, there’s an aged care facility right here,” says Lorraine. She hopes to avoid the situation her mother found herself in when needing extra care. Lorraine feels that move was made more difficult because the only options were some distance away.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important human connection can be. In Australia, we were lucky never to reach the level of countries like Spain where people were locked down within apartments, not even able to step outside.
Southern Cross Care continues to provide support and security to residents though innovation and design, coupled with a ‘customer at heart’ philosophy, ensuring their ongoing wellbeing and enabling them to live life well.
(Photos: Top - Merrylands West Lifestyle Coordinator Joanne Barry with residents; Middle - The opening of Cardinal Gilroy Village in 1973; Bottom - The new Thornton Park retirement village in Penrith)