Life goes on

People told her that the old women would quarrel together, but ‘the experiment had been tried in a small way and this had not been the case. Rather, interest had come into lives that had been wearisome before’

That was reported in 1907 by Dunedin Presbyterian deaconess Evelyn Macadam who turned her attention to the plight of some older citizens once she and fellow deaconess Mary McQueen, had helped establish our first children’s home.

Macadam had observed that it was very hard to find rooms for deserving and respectable old people who at any time might need to find other rooms. However, it wasn’t until 1917 that Presbyterian Social Services Association (PSSA) felt it was in a position to revisit the idea of a ‘home for the aged’.

Land donated by local businessman John Ross, fundraising by PSSA and the church, plus a ‘lower than normal fee’ by building contractor James Fletcher, made it possible to lay the foundation stone of Ross Home in March 1918. It was the first PSSA home for the aged in New Zealand and when officially opened on 5 October 1918, welcomed 56 women as its first residents.

Demand for admission to Ross Home quickly grew.  Facing some difficulty deciding who would be accepted, the Association applied some interesting conditions of admission. Applicants were required to include a reference certifying they were of "good character". Family members of the "inmate", as residents were then called, were also required to contribute towards the maintenance of the home.

This year, 98 years later, we open our eighth residential aged care home when the doors of Aspiring Enliven Care Centre in Wanaka open on 3 October and apply very different entry criteria.

Now promoted under Presbyterian Support’s national Enliven brand, our homes have 427 residents, increasing to 467 in October. Three retirement villages, several independent living rental cottages and community-based programmes are all contributing to the support of older people in Otago.

Dunedin Television recently produced a 30 minute documentary about life at our Enliven homes. Called ‘Life goes on’, this informative short film can be viewed on our website psotago.org.nz/enliven. We have come a long way since those first 56 women took up residence at Ross Home.