by Lisa McIntosh

The benefits of ageing in your own home are often promoted through government programs, with the backing of research. But for some people, staying at home as they age is neither preferable nor practical. Here six residents of Lutheran-managed aged-care homes and retirement villages share their thoughts and experiences about growing older in community.

The populations of Australia and New Zealand are ageing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2015 there were an estimated 3.5 million Australians aged 65 and over – or one in every seven people. The latest New Zealand figures show approximately 607,000 people 65 and over – nearly double the numbers from 1981.

Most Australians and New Zealanders aged 65+ are living in private households but, in both countries, more than a quarter of older people live alone. And while only one in 20 people of that cohort was in residential care in Australia in 2015, around one-third of older people needed assistance with daily activities.

For Margaret Voigt, 79, who moved into independent living at Lutheran Homes at Hope Valley in suburban Adelaide about six months ago, it was the lure of being part of a community that led to the shift from her own home. ‘Coming into a community like this is like living in a little country town, where people all know everyone; people are friendly’, she says. ‘Your church is here; all your care needs are taken care of. If you’re living on your own, it can get very lonely, so it was my choice to live here, where everything’s available. And I’m glad I made this move; it’s right for me.’

The benefits of ageing in a community environment are also clear to Jeanette Currie, 77, who has been a resident at the Lutheran Village in Palmerston North, New Zealand, for 13 years. ‘[It’s] the company of the residents and knowing that there are people close by if needed’, she says.

Greta Finger, 88, who has lived at Zion Aged Care, at Nundah in suburban Brisbane, for almost three years, had no choice but to leave her own home when she broke her arm and could not care for herself.

‘To say goodbye to my home was the hardest part of coming in to a place like this’, she says, ‘and leaving the friends and the things I used to do that I can’t do anymore. Then you have to remember the hymn we have: “Pray that I might have the grace to let you be my servant too”. I was a servant to others, which I can’t do so much of now, and that hurts a little bit. But I’m very grateful for what I’ve got, because there’s lots of things to be thankful for.’

Douglas Fisher, 75, who has lived at Calvary Retirement Village at Greensborough in Victoria for 15 years, agrees that giving up your own home is tough.

However Douglas, and many of the residents who shared their views, believe the pastoral care available in Lutheran communities is crucial for people as they age.

Hazel Ford, 89, who has lived at Glynde Lutheran Homes’ independent living in suburban Adelaide for six years, agrees. ‘As I age I feel nearer to God and l like to feel that I am going the right way to meet him!’ she says. ‘My faith is important to me because I am not afraid to die.’

Faith and pastoral care are a big part of life for Lorna Reinbott, 95, who has lived at Orana Aged Care at Kingaroy in Queensland for more than three years and was involved with the original committee which founded the home. ‘We’ve got a chapel here and we have a service every Sunday; then we have Bible study during the week’, she says. ‘It’s an assurance that God’s there with me.’

Lutheran aged care
The LCA has
• 20 Lutheran aged-care services
• 32 sites
• 335 aged-care packages offered
• 2072 residential aged-care beds
• 1825 independent living units

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