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December 2019

Fond Farewell from Sandy May


Two things happened recently which gave pause for thought… The first was attending a day long forum at Swinburne University with our resident Marion Lucas and Tonianne and Margaret from Lifestyle. Luckily Tonianne drove as we had to leave before 8.00 am and find our way in pre-xmas Friday traffic to the depths of Hawthorne. Marion was decked out beautifully (as usual) in shades of mauve with a matching black pearl and shell brooch. I suspect she dressed at 4.00 am and sat bolt upright in an armchair to look so good. My contribution to being ready early (Tonianne, a fellow Beaumaurian picked me up first at 7.30am!) was to sleep in full make up from the day before and just apply a little top coat (think deck re varnishing… without the pre-sand).

Anyway four women took off in a four wheel drive talking our heads off. Ah! You have to love female company. We are never sure what topic with roll into another and how we got there, but each thought and comment is received with such complete enthusiasm and understanding that it simply does not matter. I have coffee every Sunday at 3.00 pm in Black Rock (Pleasures cafe Bluff Rd) with girls I have known for 50 years. My husband says ―What! Seeing them again? What do you talk about for heaven’s sake? We never stop talking actually, and it’s not drivel (… well not always). It may be family, politics, analysis of some situation we’ve been in recently, Aged and Health Care dilemmas, relationship issues, current events, books or concerts etc etc. We are usually there until the staff pack up the chairs to go – often we are given a bread stick as they close Monday and they’ll only be turfed-out … also it’s a nice way for them to say ― times up ladies please.

Anyway back to the present, in the spirit of female comradeship we took off to Hawthorn and in no time were stomping along the twists and turns of Swinburne’s grounds. What followed was a day of astonishing revelation; ideas on Aged Care and Mental Health which were uplifting, creative, visionary and happiness-seeking. We heard of programs where the whole person mattered, not simply the tasks associated with reduced physical function. We were told about amazing work done within palliative care where life stories are collected by volunteers and turned into artefacts with the central narrative being entirely autobiographical; the person as strong agent of their own ―autologous memory bank. We heard of companionship programs and were more fully awakened to the soul destroying nature of loneliness and isolation.

We were inspired by the active kindness of others but most of all blown away by the keynote speaker (Swinburne Chancellor, Prof. John Pollaers OAM) who spoke of a system away from punitive controls and threats of sanction and failure which provide the worst forms of leadership based on FEAR and instead spoke of positivity in Aged Care where the workforce is properly skilled, the work given respect and each practitioner of care seeing ―Age as a mellow completeness bringing out the best in others instead of wrapping elders in binding clothes lest a fall or untoward incident result in legal action or defensive response.

A short film on what Aged Care could look like (as presented to others) made us realise just how narrow and confining the current system can be, and how leaders could cease to be inspirational and become policemen of compliance and risk prevention. Mmm.. food for thought here…. sounds awful doesn’t it? Many believe the whole system needs a new underpinning as currently ―Ageism‖, the notion that an individual loses relevance beyond senior years, feeds into our punitive and under- resourced Aged Care structure based largely upon ACFI funding confines.

Whew.. Lest we all collectively slash our wrists we need to balance ―Meta Analysis of a system in need of renewal, with the realisation that this negative model – though widespread – does not really represent what we do at Fairway. We are hugely collaborative, share information constructively and work as a team. Our Leaders are positive and progressive, our workforce stable with a very large number who have been with us for decades. I believe the Royal Commission will provide the pathway for huge change within the Aged Care world. There has never been such thorough (and often painful) scrutiny. Who knows… in the future there may be more ―Fairway models of care for folk to choose from? Now wouldn’t that be a fine thing?

Going from the universal to the particular, this is my last newsletter, and in fact, my last few days at Fairway. What a fantastic eleven years it has been; even in the rare challenging times, we have all pulled together and Fairway has prevailed.

I thank every single person I have had contact with, each has left an imprint in some way and the friendships and closeness we have all shared is more than special. Knowing that my present relationship with Fairway will change on retirement—and perhaps a new one emerge—It seemed right to make some re-connections in the midst of ―de-connecting, and to this end I gathered up 4 ex Beaumaris’ High School students—who shared time together 55 years ago; I was one of them. The last of our Mother’s – Margaret Crisp – resides at Fairway and as we sat in Cafe Frida drinking coffees, Margaret with us, I gazed at the faces of my dear old friends. The years have flashed past, several had not seen each other in all this time, but we laughed at old memories as did Margaret-sipping her hot chocolate and her blue eyes a-twinkle with warmth.

How amazing and lovely to have those links with the past still with us and able to be savoured. I looked beyond my friends and out to the dining room and in the corridor where busy staff and visitors moved around – there is always that ’buzz’ close to Xmas; in that moment I was flooded with gratitude for what we were sharing – what this time of year is all about…love, friendship, simple pleasures and profound truths, at once as heart-stopping and inscrutable as a King born in a stable.

Blessings to all




Sandy May

We listen.
We respect.
We care.