A new lease on life

Barbara and Kelvin O’Brien are enjoying a new circle of new friends they’ve formed since joining a Uniting AgeWell’s social connections group at Chadstone.

Barbara, 86, and Kelvin, 91, have been attending Chadstone AgeWell Centre (St Mark’s) for nearly a year and have only one regret: not having joined sooner.

Kelvin enjoys the activities each week, and Barbara goes on a Friday for a walk around Jells Park and coffee with the group. Every second week they go on a bus outing to places of interest in Melbourne. Neither drive anymore, so they both get picked up and driven home.

“We really enjoy ourselves,” says Barbara. “We chat, play cards, they run trivia quizzes, we do exercises, there are singalongs, we sometimes play darts and bowls. And there is always a delicious home-made lunch and followed by sweets.”

Everyone recently turned out in force to help the couple - soon to be great-great grandparents - celebrate their 66th wedding anniversary at the centre. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Barbara who is also a carer for Kelvin who has been diagnosed with early stages Dementia. “There was music, dancing, cake – what a wonderful surprise!”

Their daughters, Linda and Kathy sent a lovely thank-you email to the staff for holding the celebration.

In the heart-felt email to the centre Coordinator Ethan Gankanda, the daughters say, “You and your staff have given my parents a second life after COVID. Our family was so worried about their welfare during COVID, and the lack of socialising really affected their health.”

The letter goes on to say their parents lost further independence when they were no longer allowed to drive.

“They were put in contact with your group and were very hesitant at first not knowing what it was all about and what to expect. You and your staff have given them a reason to get up each morning knowing they will be with people who are caring, patient and respectful toward them and all clients you have at the centre..

“My parents were so active before COVID and were never home due to all the activities and socialising they did. They have now got a balanced life with the outside activities that are offered to them by you as well as the days they spend up at St Marks.

“We have noticed the complete change in their demeanour and the way they are happy to be part of your special group. Mum was very hesitant to join in the group at first, but once again the respect and caring you and your staff showed towards her made her feel confident to be part of the group which she now loves.”

Volunteers play a huge role in helping keep older people socially connected both at Uniting AgeWell centres and one-on-one in visits to the older person’s home or telephone chats.

Learn more our volunteering opportunities