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Making A Friendly Space For Elders In Waihī Beach

Trudy Van Stee is in her happy place - behind the drums at a music afternoon with about 20 members of A Friends Place.

She’s surprised to be Volunteering Services’ Volunteer of the Month, but the many older people living at the beach aren’t. They know about the many activities and connections she’s developed.

Trudy moved to Waihī Beach from Auckland where she was in the printing trade, and spent eight months researching what was needed to improve the lives of the many older people living at the beach. She worked as a diversional therapist for eight years at the Athenree Rest Home, had trained in dementia management, and felt there was a better way to improve older people’s lives.

“I spent eight months finding a venue, finding volunteers, talking to churches, doctors and rest homes and designing what we’d offer. I also raised funds for equipment and found this room at the Waihī Beach Community Centre.

“I learned a lot about making funding applications - I make five a year. I have 13 volunteers who keep the activities running. Many are ex nurses and they’re rostered on so the attendees are never let down.”

Trudy Van Stee

Activities run four days a week, everything from music in two sessions of soft rock, and jazz and swing, craft mornings, board games and games of 500, and pampering on Friday where nails are catered to along with the chat. There’s fresh baking made in the hall kitchen with ingredients supplied. And there’s political discussions on Tuesdays - which can get a little heated.

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She keeps her activity groups small so people are able to talk to each other. Attendees are all over 65, and many are in their 80s and 90s. One 96 year old is playing in the band.

Once a month two volunteers offer a trip in the van - perhaps to Whangamatā for lunch, or to Tauranga’s cidery. The RSA across the road provides the petrol. Everything is professionally organised and the volunteers are also older people.

They also produce plated, good quality meals for those who struggle to cook, and help people get doctor’s appointments or just provide much-needed company.

A Friends Place has been going since March 2016, and Trudy says she does this in her mum Rita’s name. Rita died recently, but from her Trudy learned a great deal about elder depression, isolation, loss of confidence, loneliness, lack of family support, the struggle when they can no longer drive and physical restrictions.

A Friends Place is about respect for the elderly, Trudy says. The happy chatter over scones and baking with no one left out proves her plan is working.

© Scoop Media

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