AN unusual request from a ratepayer has led to Vincent mayor John Carey pushing to get the city’s most isolated seniors back in touch with the community.
Earlier this year an elderly ratepayer called Mr Carey to air some concerns about security and asked him to come round. While he was there she put the agile young mayor to good use, getting him to move some outdoor furniture around and change a couple of light bulbs.
“This woman was contacting me quite regularly … I think in part to have a chat with someone and to have someone hear her story,” he says. Her family was over east so she always relished a chat.
Last week he found out she’d died, and that spurred him to start up a new council program linking local people with seniors who need company.
“We hadn’t heard from her in a few weeks; then we got notice via a staff member that she’d passed away. I felt it was incredibly sad we didn’t know she’d passed until three weeks afterwards,” Mr Carey said.
“It struck me — are we doing enough to reach out in our community?
“I know the Red Cross does incredible programs involving daily calling to check into seniors, and I’m not suggesting anything like that, but I thought is there another way we can create a casual interface … it might be two or three times a year, whether it’s an afternoon tea or dinner or introducing them to your family, just creating that connection.”
Once people adopted a senior it’d be up to both parties to work out where and how often they’d meet.
“We’re an incredibly caring community, but in these busy times people can be overlooked.”
He’s planning to put a motion to council asking the city to fund police checks (about $30 for volunteers) and work out the best way to put older people in touch with families who have a spare spot at the Sunday dinner table.
Since posting the idea on Facebook he’s had a lot of feedback from people saying they’d be keen to get on board.
Jude Gauntlett hooked up with a local professor as part of Naples’ Guardians program during a recent extended stay in Italy and said it was a fantastic experience. He’d got the English lessons he’d been after, and she got access to a side of the community she’d have never experienced otherwise.
She says Mr Carey’s program is a great idea.
by DAVID BELL