Penel (Penelope) Anderson knows the importance of social connections for older people. She sees it in action.
So, when a client at Uniting AgeWell’s Linlithgow Centre in Ivanhoe told her, “this program literally saved my life,” it came as no surprise to her.
The Team Leader of Social Connections, Centre Based Groups, recounts the story. “A woman arrived at our social connections program so thin and unwell that she had to take breaks between activities and lie down on a fold-out bed. Her aim was to put on weight and feel stronger and healthier, and she absolutely loved the nutritious meals that were served. She came every day, and started chatting to people and began thriving!” explains Penel. “It was very satisfying to see her health and wellbeing improve, including her increased confidence to put on a piano performance for other clients.”
That’s how Penel rolls; she loves making a difference and creating environments that enable people to live their best life.
Aged Care Employee Day falls on Monday August 7 this year. We are using this occasion to celebrate all that people like Penel and the 3,900 plus other people across our organisation do in making a difference to the lives of older people. The care they provide is constant and unwavering, day in and day out. It is hugely appreciated, not only by the organisation but by the people they help.
Penel has been in charge of the program at the Ivanhoe Centre since 2011, with the last few years moving into a Team Leader role, overseeing operations at five AgeWell Centres across metro Melbourne. She describes social connection as “the glue that helps health and wellbeing stick. That holds us together!”
“I’ve seen some clients who are anxious or depressed and lonely when they first come to the Groups,” she says. “Some aren’t eating well, others just want to have a reason to get out of bed in the mornings, to have some people to talk with and to share their news with.”
Penel says she concentrates on helping clients build up their strengths. “I look at what they can do, not what they can’t.”
She says by establishing partnerships with local schools, music and community groups, the Centre becomes a community hub that helps connect clients to others. “It keeps them in the loop, and allows them to contribute, to have purpose and joy in their life.”
So who is this remarkable heart-beat at the centre of these hubs?
Penel was raised and schooled in Melbourne, studied a Bachelor of Behavioural Science and buoyed by her love of mountaineering and the great outdoors, worked with Outward Bound across Australia and around the world. She returned to Melbourne and worked at Red Cross and the disability sector, determined to support people of all abilities to be the best version of themselves.
Penel works four days a week supporting five teams running Social Connection Groups from AgeWell Centres across metro Melbourne, which dovetails well with spending time with her family and friends in the outdoors.
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