Celebrating a Century of Care - Ross Home

This article was published in The Star on Thursday 11 October.

RossHome StarFeature

In 1918, an integral facility in the Northeast Valley community, Ross Home, was opened.

One hundred years later, the care home is still an iconic building and significant contributor to the local community.

During the 1910s there was a lot of focus on responding to the needs of elderly persons and taking the initiative with the commencement of aged care.

In 1913 Reverend Andrew Cameron, the convener of the Presbyterian Support Service Association (PSSA), which is now Presbyterian Support Otago, stated a clear goal for PSSA care homes: ‘‘When we build for our old people, we want to give them a real home, where married couples may still dwell together, and where each may feel — this is my own corner, and here I can be alone when I so desire.’’

John Ross (later to be Sir John Ross) donated 10 acres of land in Northeast Valley to the association in 1916, on the condition that the PSSA raise a further £3000 to go towards developing a home for the elderly. The community rose to support the request, and within a year, the association had secured cash or promises of support that equalled £31,300.

More donations and benefactors gave support in the next few years. Margaret Ross (John’s wife) laid the foundation stone for the new care home on March 2, 1918. The home officially opened six months later, on 5 October, 1918.

When it opened, 28 female residents had already made the facility into their new home — they were referred to as ‘‘inmates’’ at the time. The first residents were all from pioneering families, ready to pioneer a new style of living for the rest of their elderly peers.

Over the past century, Ross Home has grown in scale, size and support in response to community need. It0 has received regular positive feedback from the community and the many dignitaries who have visited the home over the years.

New units have been opened, cottages have been added, there have been expansions, redevelopments and constant introduction of technology and processes that allows for ease and efficiency.

The PSSA Annual Report in 1920 stated that ‘‘Ross Home is a place where the old people can live in peace and with self-respect’’.

The 1940s and 1950s saw plenty of expansion and development happening, with the Kilgour unit opening in 1941, a chapel being built and opened in the early 1950s and the Craig Block opening in 1957 The complete home was repainted, alongside the Craig block development, in a pastel colour selected by the residents.

In the 60s, the male and female residents remained largely segregated, with separate hospital wards and wings, only coming together to eat in the communal dining area.

In 1970, Ross Home took steps towards creating an atmosphere of equality, by appointing Ross Home’s first male nurse, Mr William Christie. Mr Christie would go on to be made the home’s manager in 1979.

In October 1973, New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk visited Ross Home.
    After his trip to Dunedin he wrote, ‘‘It was a great pleasure for me to meet so many elderly folk who looked so happy. It was obvious they are well cared for and do enjoy the lovely gardens and surroundings of Ross Home’’.

‘‘There is no doubt that wonderful work has been carried out at Ross Home over the years and obviously the residents have varied interesting backgrounds’’.

With the turn of the Millennium, and the growth of technology available and how it is used, Ross Home has continued to change.

The most recent major redevelopment work was completed in 2005, and included the establishment of Ross Cafe within the home.

This work won national honours when it was selected as category winner at the House of the Year and Commercial Awards, for projects valued at more than $5 million.

Under the direction of Ross Home manager Margaret Pearce (who joined the team in 2000), Ross Home has developed a significant and strong relationship with tertiary educators in Dunedin.

More than 200 students, from a wide range of courses, have spent time alongside the staff and residents at Ross Home as they complete their training in just the past two years.

A team of about 30 volunteers are part of the Ross Home community. Many are in Ross Home weekly or fortnightly to assist residents and staff in many different ways.

Ms Pearce is quick to acknowledge the value of their volunteers. ‘‘Every day there are various things that happen around Ross Home because of our amazing volunteers. They have all sorts of different roles, and the residents and staff really enjoy having volunteers as part of the community in our home.’’

Today, Ross Home provides accommodation for 124 residents at varying levels of care — rest-home, hospital and psycho-geriatric hospital.

‘‘Our philosophy today is still very much aligned to 100 years ago. We want residents to enjoy a sense of community, with friends, family, and whanau involvement.’’

‘‘We want to ensure our residents at Ross Home, and in all Enliven facilities, are involved in all aspects of their care and are supported in ways that maximise their autonomy and independence,’’ explains Presbyterian Support Otago’s Enliven director, Maurice Burrowes.

‘‘Thanks to everyone who has been part of Ross Home over the last 100 years. We are looking forward to the next century.’’

The Ross Home Centenary will be celebrated over Labour Weekend. The community, and those with a previous association with Ross Home, are welcome to join the celebrations.

Memories of earlier times recalled

As Ross Home looks to celebrate its centenary, there are plenty of fond memories being shared by people involved in the home.

Nurse Cheryl Bell started her journey with the home in 1968. She was "unaware of just how special this place, and all the people I've met over the years, would become''.

During her time, Cheryl worked under five managers, had a range of different roles and seen some of the many changes at the home.

"Over the last few decades change has been a constant,'' she wrote.

She remembered men and women having dinner together before retiring to separate lounges and residents dressed in suits, ties, dresses, stockings and corsets for the Sunday church service.

Activities co-ordinator Michelle Marsh started at the home in 1983 and one of her favourite times was organising activities and social events for the residents.

In her earlier years, residents used to call her to ask if she could bring them some blackballs and humbug lollies.

"Residents enjoyed getting out into the community, which they can now do on a regular basis. Anzac Day is always important, as many residents had fought in the war, and Christmas Day was always filled with lots of festive cheer.''