Rand Aid Association operates on the notion that retirement is the start of an exciting new chapter in life, rather than the beginning of the end. With this belief at its core, the 114-year-old NPO recently created a new post – for a community care co-ordinator. The incumbent is tasked with ensuring identifying any possible issues that may affect the quality of life and well-being of the residents in its retirement villages.
Sue Prior, a Sandton resident with extensive experience in the field of ageing was appointed to this important role. She joined Rand Aid at the beginning of August 2017. Sue explained that her career systematically took her in the direction of caring for older people. After qualifying as a social worker through the University of Natal, she went back to Zimbabwe to work for the Department of Social Services.
Social workers in Zimbabwe did not specialise in a specific area, but were exposed to all general aspects of the psycho-social condition, she explained. “Some of my brilliant colleagues over there worked with Hospice in Harare and that’s where I spent five years training and working in the palliative care and bereavement space,” said Sue.
Inevitably, Sue became involved in HIV and Aids counselling, as well as trauma debriefing. “A move to South Africa, a Psychology Honours degree, and registration with the South African Council for Social Service Practitioners, all led me to interacting and working with older people. It was a natural transition, and after several years of management in an organisational environment, I started working in private practice.”
Over the past three years, Sue has been exposed to Rand Aid through her clients, but she was not aware until recently of the scope of this NPO. Rand Aid manages four retirement villages, two frail care facilities, a treatment centre for people with substance abuse problems, as well as a home for the deaf. Subsidised accommodation, care and treatment is provided to more than 500 people on a daily basis at Thembalami Care Centre, Tarentaal Village and Wedge Gardens Treatment Centre.
Cookchill, the catering arm of the organisation, provides a support service by preparing 35 500 meals every month, and the stores, central workshops and laundry also provide important services. “Retirement is mostly about change, and with that change, often people experience loss and disruption”, explains Sue. “But while this period in one’s life brings about change in one’s life, it should not be about withdrawal and retreat.” “Safeguarding of medical and psycho-social care enhances older peoples’ quality and can add years of productivity and well-being to someone’s life. The same principles that allow us to thrive in our daily work lives can also help us to thrive in retirement,” says Sue.
“One of the basic objectives of this paradigm-shift is to promote social integration of the residents, especially those who feel isolated. Residents need to feel safe and contribute to their community.” Sue’s new role will include identifying any areas of risk and concern and provide residents with assistance to cope with issues that arise as a result of changes in health and cognitive capacity, by providing both short-term and end-of-life counselling and support. The liaison with family members and enhancement of the support systems of vulnerable residents is vital. It includes referring residents for specialised services when necessary, and networking with service providers, in the interest of residents.