A great deal has changed in the past 50 years. After all, the 1970s were a time of social change, fast cars and shaggy hairstyles!
Unemployment, interest rates and the height of flared trouser waistbands were on their way up. What was low was life expectancy and options for aged care.
In Australia in 1970, the average life expectancy was just 71 and the average man didn’t even make his 70th birthday.
For those reaching older than this, care options were limited.
Fifty years on, our life expectancy has increased substantially.
Enjoying this ‘old age bonus’ means that high-quality, individually respectful care is more important than ever.
Southern Cross Care was ahead of the curve when it came to offering care that reached beyond basic clinical needs.
Fifty years after being founded as a not-for-profit organisation, care options now include retirement villages with maintenance-free lifestyles, home care and residential care.
From the 1970s to today: Barbara
Back in 1972, Barbara Molloy was a primary school principal at St Patrick’s Primary School in Sutherland.
After going on to receive her PhD and becoming a Presentation Sister, 50 years later, she is living in a residential care home that used to be a convent and is next door to that very same primary school she attended.
Barbara’s reflections on life at Nagle Residential Care is the perfect mix of practical and philosophical.
I cherish the independence I have here,” Barbara said.
“[Moving here was] one of the most sensible decisions I have ever made in my life.
"The quality of care provided here is excellent.”
In keeping with her lifetime of care for others, Barbara says she relishes being able to continue to serve.
“I cherish the independence I have here,” she says.
“I often still help out at reception and answer the phones, which I love to do.”
Across the decades and the globe: Beate and Edna
Beate Steller’s move from Germany to the Sutherland Shire deepened her natural affinity with people of all cultures.
Already a registered nurse and social worker, her strong desire to contribute to our ageing community was prompted by caring for her own mother during ill health.
Now the Spiritual Wellbeing Coordinator at Nagle Residential Care, Beate fosters what she calls a ‘community of care’ philosophy along with other staff and volunteers.
“Some of the residents don’t have family close by, so volunteers can form close relationships and keep residents connected to the things that really matter,” said Beate.
To see a resident’s smiling face … fills me with joy.”
One of Beate’s favourite stories is helping Edna, who, now at the grand age of 97, turned 50 during the 1970s.
Edna always loved to swim in the ocean but has found this increasingly difficult.
Thanks to the work of Beate’s team and the Sutherland Shire Council’s Ocean Beach Wheelchair Program, Edna is able to return to her ‘happy place’ once more.
For Beate, these moments are what makes life precious.
“To see a resident’s smiling face, to hear them laugh or even just give a quick wink, fills me with joy,” she says.
“Because I know we have just made a difference to that person’s life.”
Not just a job but a privilege: Amelia
For Amelia Gray, Deputy Manager at Mawson Court Residential Care in Caves Beach, the 1970s are history rather than a decade she lived through. But this doesn’t mean she hasn’t seen change.
“Eleven years ago, there were no registered nurses on-site after hours,” Amelia recalls of her early working days.
“Today, we have registered nurses 24/7 … the emphasis is on better quality care.”
The emphasis is on better quality care.”
Amelia values the meaning of community.
“Some residents have been in the area most of their life. They’ve worked hard and lived full lives,” she said.
“I love making a difference for others, ensuring they are safe, well and still feel connected to their community.”
This extends across both residents and the care team.
“It’s a supportive family environment, with many staff knowing residents who used to be active in the community and know each other well,” Amelia said of her dream job.
“Caring for residents is my privilege.”
Looking to the future while celebrating
Celebrating a golden jubilee is an opportunity to look back at the care and community provided to thousands of older Australians across the decades, as well as forward to continued development and change.
Even in the past few years, new care options are being opened, like Thornton Park in Penrith.
Southern Cross Care’s programs are winning awards, such as the 10K Project, which won the Best Community Care Model at the Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards, and North Turramurra Residential Care, which won the prestigious UDIA NSW Award for Excellence in Aged Care.
Certainly, there are challenges to meet.
As a registered nurse, Southern Cross Care’s CEO, Helen Emmerson, is well aware of the increasing prevalence of dementia and the risks of COVID-19.
She is confident that the passion of staff towards making a positive difference for the lives and happiness of older people will stand Southern Cross Care in great stead for the next 50 years as well.
In the words of 87-year-old resident Ann Gallagher, in an excerpt from her poem titled Morning:
“These are my people. Here I have chosen to live.
"This is my home, this place that I love.”