Willoughby Retirement Community Association, improving lives.
COVID-19 changed the world but for Willoughby Retirement Community Association one thing has always remained constant: their plan to redevelop a new house that can improve lives.
Willoughby Retirement Community Association (WRCA) – established in Sydney’s lower North Shore in the 1970s as a not-for-profit charity – bought into a dream in late-2019: a three-bedroom house next door to its retirement village (Willoughby Village) and aged care facility (Willoughby Hostel)
“The site is surrounded by nature and is in a beautiful setting,” says Lindy Kearns, CEO and Solicitor for WRCA. “However, the property is ripe for redevelopment.”
There were two alternative plans for the house. The first plan would see WRCA creating a new home for young people with disabilities. The property would enable a group of younger people to move out of residential aged care and live in the age-appropriate company of their peers. The other option was to transform the house to be the kind of palliative care centre that people would want to spend their last days in.
Kearns explains that both goals were achievable. “But then COVID-19 hit a few months later. In early 2020, all of our plans were temporarily put on hold until we got through the crisis.”
Fast forward to 2022 and the world is still struggling with COVID. “We have been very fortunate in that we have not had a single case of COVID at Willoughby Hostel. This is all down to WRCA’s dedicated board and staff, and our wonderful residents and their families. But COVID has affected all our plans.”
It’s been three years since WRCA purchased the site.
“We are still holding on for the crisis to be over. Recently, we’ve all been told there is another COVID wave coming so we have to ‘batten down the hatches’ again. You can’t be ‘over it’ when you work in aged care – it’s a sector that’s really struggling with it.”
Despite this, the need to get young people with disabilities out of aged care and provide them with age-appropriate accommodation still exists. Older people in need of palliation are still dying in hospital instead of a purpose-built palliation centre that provides positive end-of-life experiences.
Kearns says the need to redevelop the neighbouring three-bedroom property into a life-changing centre is still present. What is more hard-to-come-by though is investment.
“We welcome ideas and funding so we can get our dream off the ground. We are all very passionate about helping people in our local communities.
“What we need is expertise in creating a purpose-built centre with great age-friendly design that’ll last well into the future. Whether we go down the track of palliative care or care for young people with disabilities, there’s one thing we know the property needs: it has to feel like a home where people want to live.”
For more information about the Willoughby Retirement Community Association visit https://willoughbyvillage.com.au.
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