If your feet itch to Boot Scootin’ Boogie, or your knitting needles click a little louder in the company of other industrious folk, or your tenacious character enjoys an intense game of snooker, then Wakefield House is the place to be.
For 30 years this vibrant and valuable hub has been the backbone of its community, and along the way it’s shattered the preconception of a seniors’ club look and feel. In a word, it’s joyful, a place where laughter and kindness abound.
Verna Saunders coordinates the centre, Nikki Chadburn manages the Friendship Club, and Terry Downes is the healthy food facilitator.
These champions are supported by a band of generous volunteers who ensure that a friendly face welcomes members and visitors, the organic garden flourishes, reliable transport is provided, and the centre’s Friendship Club runs smoothly.
The Friendship Club is a respite program that offers a raft of weekly activities — from social outings and know-how workshops, to exercises –
for residents of the City of Onkaparinga. It offers time out for carers, knowing their loved one is enjoying social interactions in a safe and welcoming environment.
On the program are ballroom dancing, bingo, a choir, Chat Craft, card games and computer lessons. There are active classes such as Strength for Life and line dancing. People enjoy snooker sessions, once a month there’s the fabulous ladies night out, and a highlight on the annual calendar is the Melbourne Cup celebration.
It’s good to know you don’t have to be artistic to join the pottery group, nor do you need to be light on your feet to partake in ballroom dancing.
And you don’t even have to attend the centre to participate in an activity.
This is a place where everyone is accepted.
“Many people come in for a cup of tea and sit in the garden to watch the world go by; some people come in to buy frozen meals or borrow a book from the library,” Nikki says. “We love that; it’s what we are here for.”
This welcoming, open-door culture fosters genuine caring relationships, which has seen food parcels delivered to the homes of ill or injured members and a compassionate ear offered when days are difficult.
Wakefield House is there, giving substance to its mission to be a positive ageing centre.
There’s one element that fortifies everything about Wakefield House — fabulous food. Under Terry’s guidance, every morsel is delicious, looks sensational, and is packed with nutrition thanks to ingredients freshly picked from the garden.
Part of Terry’s role is looking at people’s wellbeing regarding food by demonstrating healthy eating practices and getting people excited about how easy it is to cook nutritious meals.
Verna highlights an example: “We have a grandparents’ group that comes in regularly for lunch. They care for their grandchildren and in some cases, great-grandchildren, so we now organise for the grandkids to come along during school holidays. Terry puts on wonderful food platters and we organise activities for them. They have a blast and the feedback is fabulous.”
One grandparent wrote a note, saying: “I can say nothing but thank you, thank you, thank you. My great-granddaughter had the opportunity to assist in the kitchen and was elated because she was accepted, encouraged and made to feel welcome. The meal and services were A1. I feel privileged to be a part of the Wakefield House community.”
For Terry, food is his gift. “My focus is on health and I strongly believe that nutritious food and a strong community are the keys to good health and wellbeing.
“I love being here; I feel I’m in the right place,” he says. A sentiment shared by many.
FOOD AND FRIENDSHIP
Artist Sue says friendship is the greatest gift Wakefield House has given her; the snooker group enjoy 8-ball and banter; Wakefield House’s Terry Downes, centre, values the gardening know-how of volunteers such as Tony and Chri.