Loving living at home, with a helping hand
At almost 90 years of age, Ethel Hodgson remains able to live independently at Air Force Memorial Estate with a little helping hand from RAAFA's in-home community care arm - RAAFA Connect.
Ethel, who moved into her home on the estate 28 years ago, back in 1988 with her late husband John, has been an active member of the community as well as a tireless volunteer, and she admits to loving where she lives.
Several months ago however, she felt she needed a little more support in her day-to-day life and, after having a good discussion with her daughter, reached out for some domestic support via RAAFA Connect. As a result, Ethel now receives domestic assistance every week, which means her bathroom and toilet, as well as the floors and kitchen, are cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis.
"I have found RAAFA Connect wonderful and the support staff who come to my home each week have been really lovely," says Ethel, who was born in Bridgetown and has also lived in Kalgoorlie and Bunbury during her lifetime.
"My desire is to stay living in my own home for as long as possible, and gaining help with some domestic assistance every week just works perfectly for me," she says.
"If the heavy jobs get done I can manage the rest, and it means I have more time to continue my voluntary and charity works in the community and for my church, and also visit friends and other residents at Alice Ross-King Care Centre and Gordon Lodge."
Staying at home enables Ethel to act as an ambassador to those entering the estate. She is known by many for sitting on her veranda in the sun, simply being a smiling friendly face and greeting everyone.
RAAFA Connect was created as a response to the growing demand for high quality in-home services both on RAAFA estates and also in the wider Perth community.
RAAFA Connect nurses and support staff work together to improve the ability of individuals to stay at home and, in doing so, prevent early admission to acute or residential homes.
AFME's longest resident
Margaret Murray has lived at Air Force Memorial Estate since June 1978, when she moved into the first self-funded units on the Estate with her late husband, Vic.
Margaret said they chose to move into AFME because, "Vic was retiring and we were looking for somewhere to downsize for our older years that would provide more security for me and ongoing care when needed.
"Back in those early days it was just a swampy rural area with sheep still grazing on the property. We lived in Rossmoyne and often came to the AFA Country Club for social gatherings, which is all that RAAFA was back in those days.
"We chose RAAFA because the concept of ongoing care appealed to us and was quite unique at the time. There were very few retirement villages and we especially liked the unique ex-service link. Also the beautiful natural bush surrounds and lake were a drawcard."
Sadly, Vic passed away in 2005 and Margaret's whole life changed. She was very grateful for the supportive network of people on the Estate. Also the many facilities located on her doorstep and knowing that when things like the hot water system burst, she just had to pick up the phone.
Margaret is still a very active member of the AFME community and you wouldn't believe she is the age she is, with all of the activities she gets up to.
She is a Committee Member of the Club and was on the Sunderland Branch Committee until it closed in 2015. She still volunteers at the Museum, and attends computer classes which she says, helps with the exchange of ideas and information, and keeps her mind active. "I have an iPhone, iPad and PC and keep up with technology. Just because you are old doesn't mean you can't learn new things and this is a way to keep my mind active," said Margaret.
Among many other activities, Margaret also attends both tai chi and exercise classes, and regularly uses the gym and pool so that she can stay fit enough to go overseas at least once a year.
Lifestyle a winner for Bruce and Elaine
Having a home which fit into their caravanning lifestyle was important for Bruce and Elaine Hardie when they made the decision to move into RAAFA's Meadow Springs Estate.
Bruce and Elaine have lived at Meadow Springs for almost two years and the lifestyle is a perfect fit for their 'grey nomad' travels.
"We are active in caravanning so often go away for months at a time. We've just spent five months camping north of Coral Bay over winter. It suits us perfectly - we can lock the door and go away and come back and everything is as you left it," Bruce said.
"The caravan parking area on-site is a major appeal for us - we have a large caravan, a boat and a truck, so having room to park them all is fantastic.
"We moved from Australind - we met a couple on the road a few years ago who lived here and they said 'come visit' so we did. We were quite impressed with it so decided to move here. Now we have friends who also have their name on the waiting list to move in."
At 61 and 62 years old respectively, Elaine and Bruce are spring chickens on the Estate, but believe making the big move has been their best decision.
"Location is important; it's a terrific location here. If you like fishing, crabbing, crayfishing and boating, which we do, it's perfect," Elaine said.
"Also having access to public transport is really important. Going into Perth on the bus and train means you're there in under an hour.
"When I was sick there was someone on the Estate available to support us with the equipment I needed, things like shower chairs and rails. Having it all coordinated on the Estate was so helpful, and it's fantastic that RAAFA have made that equipment available for residents," she said.
"There are so many good things to say. There is lots of open space and the gardens are well maintained. I use the hydrotherapy pool and the outdoor pool in summer. We love that we can have our grandchildren stay with us here in summertime and they can use the pool with us. We're still just about the youngest people living here, but for us it's good to be young and to make the most of the facilities on offer."
Easy living the order of the day at Erksine
Life couldn't be any easier at RAAFA's Erskine Grove according to long term resident Lillian Bridewell.
Lillian and her husband Geoff have lived on the Estate since 2005 when Stage 5 was completed and couldn't be happier that they made the move from their family home.
"We used to live in the suburbs and we would be the only ones in the street who were at home during the day - all our neighbours would be working. We were bored - and then we shifted here and haven't stopped since," Lillian said.
"The major thing I love about being on the Estate is the companionship. We have good neighbours and great facilities."
Like many other Erskine residents, Lillian makes the most of the range of social and hobby activities available at the village. She runs the village Photography Club, where she helps teach other residents how to use their digital cameras and how to do things like download images onto their devices. She is also part of the Computer Club which meets twice a month, and is involved with the recently-formed Family History Club.
"You can be involved as little or as much as you want here, which is the beauty of it. The other thing I like is that everyone is always willing to help if you need it," she said.
"The best part is being with people who are in the same age group. Our principles are the same and we grew up at the same time. We are all coming into the technological age at the same time, and we have 90 year olds living here who have bought a computer and are keen to give it a try."
Lillian's neighbour Bob Schwartz agrees the community atmosphere is what sets Erskine apart.
"Before moving into the village I lived in another place for 12 years and knew three people. When I arrived here I'd been here about 12 minutes and already knew six people. That's what makes the difference," he said.
The joy of locking up and leaving
Life is a holiday when you live at RAAFA's Merriwa Estate, according to resident Brian Luckhurst.
"I love it here," says the 67 year old. "I was fed up mowing lawns, cleaning a relatively big house and worrying about leaving it when I went away, and I've had none of those concerns since moving here, it's like a homecoming to me."
Brian explains that he has been visiting the Merriwa estate for over 20 years, having had many friends who have called it home over the years.
"It's a great place and I knew that, because I visited so often and had always felt very comfortable here, in fact I've had my name down for 15 years so moving in wasn't a quick decision it was very well thought out. I just wanted to be on the list for when the time was right, and that time was about 18 months ago and I've never looked back."
Brian now has a two-bedroom villa at the estate which he calls home when he's living in Perth. He also has a motorhome which is currently in Sydney, and it's where he'll return in a few weeks' time when he resumes his travelling up the east coast of Australia.
"I try to get back about every two months for the residents' meetings, I figure I can't volunteer because I'm not here enough, but when I am here I like to contribute. What do they say? If you don't contribute, you can't complain if you're not happy, and that's really how I feel.
"But I love everything about this place, my neighbours are a bit older than me but everyone is so friendly, it seems to me that pretty much everyone is friends here."
And as someone who has recently relocated to a retirement village, Brian has some advice for anyone currently considering a similar move.
"You need to come in earlier rather than later," he says.
If you come in earlier you've got time to make friends, get to know your new doctor and dentist and things like that, and I believe the younger you do it the easier it is."
Anyone wanting further information on the homes available at RAAFA's Merriwa Estate can contact Estate Manager, Karen Huyton on 9400 3772.
Making the move
When 80-year-old Marion Denney and her husband Ron, 82, entered RAAFA Amity Village Albany, it was the first move they'd made in 61 years.
"We moved to our farm in Cranbrook just after we were married and we stayed there," explains Marion, who recalls the first time she saw her husband-to-be, he was riding a horse at the Kojonup Agricultural Show.
"Making the move was a huge thing for us, but we visited Amity to have a look at what it was like and that's the advice I'd give to anyone thinking about entering retirement living themselves - basically to go and spend time there and see if you like it."
Since moving to Amity in September last year, Marion has been pivotal in setting up the Botanical Art group, which attracts between five and 16 residents each week.
"I'm a botanical artist and I taught at Albany Summer School for a few years, and each week I really enjoy giving a hand to the ladies and helping them create a beautiful painting.
"Certainly everybody talks to everybody here and there is so much going on that you soon know everybody by their first name."
Marion says the decision to move into Amity was made as her husband Ron's medical problems increased and the couple felt they needed to be closer to help.
"Ron is full-time in a wheelchair now and we've had the inside of the house made wheelchair-friendly, in addition to having the curbing changed so that we had flat access outside the house," she says.
"Ron is still able to get out and about though, and does a lap of the community every morning in his wheelchair; everyone speaks to him and vice versa, it's a really friendly village and we're very happy to be here."