Ageing in place gains ground

Words by CopperLine and supplied

Since first being raised by Julie Barrington’s article in the November 2022 edition of CopperLine, interest has grown in smaller, low maintenance dwellings for residents of Eltham and surrounds who want to remain here with their long term connections to people and place as they age.

Organised and convened by Julie with assistance of a small committee, a forum took place on 20th October at the old Eltham Courthouse annexe; attended by more than twenty people with as many interested apologies. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to create appropriate housing for older residents who wish to downsize and remain in Nillumbik.

Guest speaker, Jock Macneish OAM from the Warrandyte Community Retirement Housing Cooperative (WCRHC) shared some of his long-standing experiences there.  It began with 3 people and since 2006 has involved 17 people on the Board. Only two of them (including Jock) are now residents in the homes created, with others continuing to support the community cooperative.

The projects completed so far include five retirement homes with a communal gazebo at West End Road Warrandyte, and another five at 26 Harris Gully Road Warrandyte. They won a Housing Industry Award for Community Housing amongst other prizes.

Key questions raised and discussed about the WCHRC model concerned:

  • The legal structure of the WCRHC organisation.
  • Their budget for a 2,000 square metre site with five dwellings under the Victorian Retirement Villages Act.
  • The design and appearance of the single level, two bedroom homes:
    All the same size but each with a unique floor plan; wider doors, larger bathroom spaces and age friendly amenities, fittings and fixtures. Living spaces are north facing and oriented to protect privacy. Each has its own native garden, a single garage with room for a workbench and a guest car park.
  • Proximity to shops and public transport. 
  • Choosing an architect, a builder, and challenges with Manningham Council, and costs.
  • The turnover of residents has been minimal. Applicants are interviewed for suitability.

Jock’s priority message was the necessity to build a community of trust. Amongst others he quoted Margaret Wheatley: “Every great change starts from very small conversations held among people who care”. His mantra to all was: “You can do it”!

A thoughtful discussion followed concerning why such housing is needed, what models and options are desirable, potential locations, and how these goals might be achieved, including funding, planning and government support.

Overall, there seemed to be energy in the room for another meeting.  

Some of the many thoughts following the meeting remain:

  • There is a needed sharing of: values, wanted lifestyles, of sociability versus privacy and of independence versus interdependence (for safety and mutual assistance in daily living).
  • How to imagine this must come before addressing how to do this.
  • Perhaps a step-wise approach to first building a community / “a network of trust”: some sharing of activities – shopping, home maintenance, transport; “do we all need our own lawn mower”? One could go on.

Contact is welcome at [email protected]