Published on 12 April 2019

Elizabeth House – a hive of activity

Tucked away in an unassuming corner of Christie Downs is a vibrant space where local people can connect, learn and form friendships.

Whoever coined the phrase ‘twilight years’ for those entering their later stages of life obviously never visited Elizabeth House. Attendees of the positive ageing centre, located at 112 Elizabeth Road, Christie Downs, are far too busy learning, creating and socialising to waste time fading off into the sunset.

Visit any day of the week and you’ll find it’s a hive of activity. The first thing you’ll notice is the light: beaming in through huge windows that show off the expansive community gardens, creating a beautiful and bright recreation space. Second, the sounds: usually laughter and chatter, sometimes singing and music. Third, the smells: mouth-watering aromas from the onsite community cafe; hints of earth and botanicals from the gardens; essential oils from the spa treatment room. It’s a sensory delight.

The council-owned and operated centre was purpose-built 25 years ago to provide an inclusive place for people to connect with their community and each other. Its mission is still as vitally important today: overcoming isolation, increasing participation and supporting mental health and wellbeing. There’s no age restriction at Elizabeth House — everyone is welcome.

It provides an extensive and occasionally eclectic mix of programs and events.

You can learn how to do just about anything from colouring-in to using computers. Join a support group for people living with a range of health conditions. Get involved in a pipe band or have a roll of carpet bowls.

The community cafe offers hot nutritious meals freshly-prepared by the catering team. Freshly picked seasonal vegetables come straight from the kitchen gardens and take-home meals — hot or frozen — are also available.

“When people gather, the kitchen is one of the most important places in the home,” Centre Coordinator Sophie Lawrence explains. “It’s the same here.”

It’s not only the attendees who benefit from Elizabeth House. A close-knit community of 37 volunteers are part of the furniture and the fun. From cooking up a storm, to leading activities, to getting their hands dirty in the garden, there are plenty of options depending on people’s interests and new volunteers are welcome.

“The staff and volunteers are part of a team,” Sophie says. “It’s more like family.”

According to Sophie, the program of activities is based on what the community needs and wants. One example of this in action is the ladies’ shed group. It began at the centre about four years ago, after community members Leone Mitchell and Rosemary Millard got in contact with an idea.

They’d met a few years earlier while studying furniture construction as mature-age year 12 students at Christies Beach High School and wanted somewhere to continue their passion and share their skills with other local women. The Elizabeth House ladies’ shed was born, and the response has been remarkable, with a waiting list of women who want to learn how to safely use power tools and make their own furniture, planter boxes and art pieces — and save money on tradespeople. One session a week has now been split into two sessions to meet demand. The women form friendships as they learn and practice new skills and build their confidence.

“Their faces light up,” Sophie explains.

The group meets from 9.30am-3pm on Fridays.

There is also a men’s shed group available, from 10am–2.30pm Thursdays.

As well as offering its own activities, Elizabeth House is also an information hub about other services available in the local area. If a service isn’t available onsite, staff will investigate and pass on details of other programs that could benefit those who attend Elizabeth House.

A new attraction for centre visitors is a small spa treatment area.

“It’s a treat — we want to spoil them,” Sophie says with a smile.“It’s about treating people the way we want our parents to be treated — with respect and kindness.”

Elizabeth House is located at 112 Elizabeth Road, Christie Downs and open Monday–Friday, 9am–4pm.

For more information or to get involved, pick up a program from the centre or phone 8384 5170. Click here for more information.

Geoff Liddicot is a regular at the centre’s art group.