The role of community in aged care – “Care Partnerships”

By Jeanne Atiwag - 21 September 2023

The role of community in aged care – “Care Partnerships”

“There is a difference between solitude and loneliness,” points out Juliette. “The Eden Alternative is about identifying what loneliness is and creating meaningful pathways to overcome that. It’s a relationship-directed model of care that hinges on creating meaningful relationships – whether that’s with staff, families, students, or volunteers.”

“A lot of residents here are very close to staff, and we don’t discourage those connections. I often go and have a cuppa or evening chat with some residents, and those daily connections are equally important and vital to all of us,” she says.

However, staff are just one part of the solution: Juliette strongly believes that care partnerships with families, whānau and other visitors, including volunteers and school groups, are an important and essential part of providing high quality care that makes a significant difference to residents’ lives.

Families, students & volunteers vital to aged care

At the heart of the Eden philosophy is the belief that loneliness, helplessness and boredom can be overcome by loving companionship – especially with animals, plants and children; providing opportunities for residents to give as well as receive; and imbuing life with variety and spontaneity by creating an environment where the unexpected and unpredictable can take place.

“The weekly tech workshops with St Kentigern College students are a great example of this,” says Juliette. “The students help seniors learn essential digital skills and both residents and students find the sessions very rewarding. Our volunteers also make an amazing difference to the lives of our residents, and our residents also cherish the fact that we have several pets here, both communal and individual.”

“I’d like to see families becoming more involved in daily life in our care communities, as they are a core part of ta care partnership,” says Juliette. “Care shouldn’t stop when a loved one goes into a care home. We believe that older people should continue to benefit from meaningful relationships with friends, whānau, children, animals and activities – not just occasionally, but regularly.”

To that end, HBH is exploring ways to involve families more in daily life at HBH, including our new, monthly ‘Relatively Speaking’ get-togethers for families and friends of residents, which began in July this year ahd have been well attended to date.

Virtually as good as a retirement village

Another solution that’s making a profound difference is Virtual Village East, a local social and support network for seniors. Initiated by HBH and East Health Trust, this free social network enables older people in the East Auckland community to connect with each other, live independently and enjoy life.

“In the villages of yesteryear, people looked out for one another, helped each other with errands, got together socially and often became friends along the way,” says Juliette. “Virtual Village East enables seniors to create and maintain these important social connections and create new friendships. It was particularly invaluable during lockdowns and the challenges of that period highlighted the need to expand our network to reach more seniors in other communities.”

Social housing making a difference

“HBH is a not-profit, faith-based organisation, and we care deeply about ensuring all older people in our community enjoy better, more fulfilled lives,” says Juliette. “One of the key tenets of the HBH Group’s philosophy is a belief that all seniors should have a safe, healthy and age-friendly place to live, wherever they choose to call home.”

For that reason, HBH Senior Living now owns and manages Stevenson Village, a 36-unit retirement village in Howick providing affordable, social housing for older people. Residents now have access to many of HBH’s activities and services (including Virtual Village East and the popular day programme at HBH Howick Views), helping them to remain as independent as possible – and to live life to the full.

Jeanne Atiwag