The Community Development Subcommittee hosted a round table afternoon tea and discussion in October last year with the intention of gathering information from Glebe Society members about their experience and those of friends and relatives with respect to Ageing in Place in Glebe.

There were two main reasons for this initiative. Firstly, as the Glebe Society is a contributor to the Glebe Connected initiative which is investigating Transitions and how they may be better managed in Glebe, we are intending to use information gathered to contribute to our submission on the topic to this body.

Secondly, the City of Sydney is commencing deliberations for its forward planning 2020-2050 Strategic Planning process. We wanted to be in a position to make an informed submission to this process and considered that the best way to do so was to ask our members to provide anecdotal evidence arising from their own local experience.

What follows are some of the major concerns members expressed, and some suggestions as to how they might be addressed in a positive manner in Glebe.

Footpath Safety
This is a central issue for older Australians. For those without cars, walking is a necessary mode of transport, even if the walk is just to a bus stop. But, for many, walking is also a leisure activity – a way of enjoying the outdoors, maintaining physical resilience and staying connected to their community through the friends, neighbours and acquaintances they meet in transit. However in July 2018, when Glebe Society canvassed members’ views on Glebe’s safety issues, many older members sent a clear message that their ability to walk freely around their suburbs and parklands was compromised by poor footpath safety.

Transport
This was deemed especially important for people who no longer drive. City of Sydney Village bus services were noted as useful, but information could be better distributed. Taxi concessions may be available but information is needed on applicable conditions, and how to access them. Uber was noted as potentially useful for short trips; however guidance for signing up and use may be needed for people unused to the system.

Short term support
This may be essential under certain circumstances such as that following an operation, and could be particularly important for people without family, or whose family is unavailable.

Home help, for both housework and personal services, was suggested. Information is needed on how these are accessed, what conditions exist, who can help with access, especially in the event of unanticipated crises. ACAT evaluation procedures were mentioned – however they are beyond the scope of this discussion.

Several people indicated that some support can be organised with friends and neighbours, especially for simple needs, such as taking out the garbage bin. It is worthwhile encouraging people to establish self-help support groups in anticipation of such situations.

Shopping
While often mentioned as a support service, it may actually be the easiest to organise, especially for long-term residents of the inner city where home delivery is readily available. Older people could be encouraged to help gain experience with online ordering of groceries, as an example.

End of life planning
It was suggested Advanced Care Directives should be encouraged, as well as discussing one’s wishes with one’s GP, legal advisor, family and friends; as well as ensuring that documentation can be located in an emergency.

Edwina Doe advised that the Red Cross Society has a simple information card which they can provide. It can be filled in and given to supportive neighbours. This is especially useful for people who live alone and may wish to make information readily available in the event it is needed. See p.12.

Community activities to counter isolation/loneliness
We identified a number of activities in Glebe particularly suited to older Glebe residents:

  • The City of Sydney offers exercise classes at St Helen’s and Benledi, as well as bingo, yoga and the Community Garden.
  • The Glebe Library hosts a fortnightly knitting circle.
  • The Old Fire Station functions as a community centre, hosting ‘Have a Chat Café’ three days per week.

There are also:

  • Privately organised activities such as book clubs which sometimes seek new members.
  • Other community activities, such as the boules group, the community choir and the PUG Men’s Shed and band.

Overall though, the range seems quite limited – perhaps there are more options that participants just hadn’t heard about.

The two major suggestions were:

  1. Establish a single/central information point which older residents can use to find out what is available.
  2. Proactive development of a broad-based activity program for older residents.

Rather than waiting for private operators to approach the City of Sydney, we think there is a case for City of Sydney to take a more proactive approach. U3A, for instance has a lot to offer older residents but may well need further encouragement to operate in Glebe.

A proactive approach could include facilitating the use of Glebe’s currently underutilised community venues.

Rethinking Council’s role in providing service to seniors in Glebe
There is a need for:

  • Communication about the range of activities and services available in the community. This could be, for example, via a newsletter (such as Council’s existing newsletter, but with a different focus). Something small but regular would be more effective than a larger annual publication (such as the previous ‘Gold’ booklet.) Existing information available on the City’s ‘What’s On’ website favours one-off activities over on-going, and is not easy to filter for senior services.
  • A simple way for community organisations that target seniors to use Council venues free of charge, without the need for complex application process.
  • Community services to actively liaise with the range of community activities and services to provide support and identify opportunities and gaps.
  • A dedicated ‘Seniors’ liaison role’ for a Glebe-based City of Sydney employee.

If you have further ideas and concerns you’d like to raise please contact us on community@glebesociety.org.au