Saturday, December 03, 2022

‘They wanted to be here forever’: Why elderly residents are forcibly leaving this town

After 51 years living in the same regional community in Western Australia, Beryl Batt’s parents were forced to travel more than 90 kilometers away to access aged care, despite a community effort by the town to keep its seniors at home.

The town of Boddington, 120km south-east of Perth, is one of many regional communities in Australia that doesn’t have an aged care facility.

When Ernie and Valda Jones’ health began to deteriorate, their daughter Beryl Batt made the heartbreaking decision to move the couple to Mandurah, a three-hour round-trip away.

Beryl Batt Sits In A Chair
Ms Batt says while her parents are happy, they didn’t want to leave Boddington.,ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch,

She said while her parents were happy, they missed their home and their friends.

“If they were two minutes down the road, you could pop in and have a cuppa with them every day … and they would be amongst their friends,” Ms Batt said.

Ernie And Valda Jones
Ernie and Valda Jones had lived in Boddington for more than 50 years.,Supplied: Beryl Batt,

Community rally behind seniors

The family’s situation is not unique. The recent Royal Commission into aged care found many seniors in regional Australia had moved more than 100km from home to find permanent aged care or respite.

In Boddington, residents had traveled as far south as Albany or up to Perth to access 24-hour supported care in their retirement.

It comes despite concentrated efforts by the local community to keep the residents at home.

For years, every dollar collected from sales from the town’s op shop has gone towards improving facilities at the local hospital and helping the town’s elderly.

Dawn Newman
Ms Newman said dozens of medical duress alarms had been funded by the op shop.,ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch,

Boddington Auxiliary president Dawn Newman said over the past eight years the group had rolled out dozens of personal duress alarms and other medical assistance equipment to seniors.

“We order it, we provide it to them, we install it, we show them how to use it and we teach the family how it operates,” Ms Newman said.

“If any of them need a walker and can’t afford one, we help them out with that.

The Opp Shop In Boddington
Profits from the local op shop goes toward assisting the town’s elderly residents.,ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch,

However, Ms Newman said there was only so much the community could do.

“The town was a super town a few years ago,” she said.

“What is super about where we can have people live in this region their entire life and get to be 70,80, 90 and have nowhere to go?

Aged care needed

Ms Newman has joined the increasing community calls for a purpose-built aged care center for Boddington.

Councillor Coert Erasnmus Stands In Front Of A Tree
Dr Erasnmus intends to lobby governments and the private sector for support.,ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch,

A recent report commissioned by the local council found a case for a 40-bed aged care center in the town to meet the needs of Boddington and the surrounding towns of Williams and Wandering.

It is expected to cost up to $15 million to build.

Shire of Boddington’s aged care committee chariman Coert Erasmus said the facility was desperately needed in the town.

“It’s the number one priority,” he said.

Dr Erasmus said council would lobby the state government and the private sector for help.

“It’s early days but we have got some hope. At least I hope in the next five years. It might be ambitions but it’s what we’re aiming for,” he said.

Seniors determined to stay

Gloria Batt, 99, lives independently and is resolute that if aged care is in her future, it needed to be in Boddington.

“If the time comes, I would much rather be here than anywhere else.

“If you’re sent away, you don’t know anyone in the home and your friends can’t be traveling to visit all the time.”

Gloria Batt
Gloria Batt does not want to move away from family and friends to access living support.,ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch,

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