Keith and Pat May are walking, talking proof that living in a nursing home doesn’t have to mean living your life in a nursing home.
They might eat and sleep at Abbeyfield House Mortlake, but Keith (93) and Pat (90) are determined to maintain their independence, freedom and mobility.
Every morning they can be seen wandering down the street to one of Mortlake’s cafes to enjoy a coffee and chat with the locals.
With their matching walkers for added confidence, they venture back to their aged care when they are ready or to join in the many activities on offer with fellow residents.
Keith plays lawn bowls when he wants to, catches the bus to Warrnambool or Ballarat to tend to business and every Sunday they join with local parishioners at the Uniting Church.
Life is good, Keith said and they’re both thankful that despite some health challenges they’re able to enjoy their aged care and make the most of the support provided to them.
“We’ve been here just over a year, I came first and Pat got a room just a few weeks later which was wonderful,” Keith said.
“We had been living at home in Derrinallum and I had a massive stroke. I was in Terang hospital for over a month and…the family was called to say their goodbyes.
“I didn’t know much about what was going on then, but I pulled through and my doctor said I couldn’t return home and I had to accept that. We’d put our name down here at Mortlake already and really like the place, so I was happy I was able to move here.”
Pat said she suffered from macular degeneration and without Keith to support her, she also knew the time had come to move into aged care.
“We had a meeting with Deb (chief executive officer Deb Rantall) and I knew that when a room became available that I was on top of the list.
“I few weeks later, I was here as well. Initially my room wasn’t that close to Keith’s, but after a while they were able to put us in rooms next to each other and we like it.
“We are very grateful and well looked after. Our family is wonderful and the staff here are wonderful as well – not one of them is grumpy.”
Keith said as his health improved and the couple became more confident around Mortlake, they started spending more time outside the nursing home.
“From a physical point of view it’s important to stretch our legs, get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air,” he said.
“The people in the cafes are getting to know us. One day we got stuck in rain and they offered to drive us back – but it stopped long enough for us to walk back.
“We both thought aged care was different to this…we were never keen to make the move but knowing what we do now there was no reason to worry about it. We come and go as we like and don’t have to worry about our house and bills and meals and that sort of thing.”
Mrs Rantall said Keith and Pat were helping to break the stigma that aged care was about living in a nursing home.
“Because you are in aged care doesn’t mean you have to give up doing what you love,” she said.
“I love that Keith still bowls and goes to Ballarat for business. Their walks down the street are so wonderful and it means they become part of the Mortlake community a bit more.”
Mrs Rantall said often people left their decision to enter aged care too late and she urged families to think about the timing so that quality of life can be maintained.
“Often quality of life has diminished by the time people agree to come to us and we need to improve their health before they can enjoy themselves here,” she said.
“We always support people’s right to have choice and to be involved in the decision themselves, but I always prefer to see people come in earlier, when they have quality of life – rather than way too late when they are ailing and unable to enjoy aged care.”