Lifted up

‘Thank you for nursing him’, my daughter texted. ‘I think he loved the comfort …’

It’s ages since I’ve been able to take care of a sick grandchild – not only because of the risk of getting whatever bug the boys might have caught, but also because they are fast leaving childhood behind and becoming resilient young people.

I wasn’t well that day either, but Cass was comfort to me too. I read him funny short stories by Andy Griffith as he lay curled up on the couch, eyes closed, a warm wheat bag clutched to his chest. It was unusually cool that day, so Cass was swathed in a blue throw rug, his phone tucked under the pillow. It had to be close to him.

After they’d left, mother and son, I felt full.

There’s no substitute for what I’ve just described. It made me realize though that it’s time to move on from the post-book-publication phase I’ve been mired in for some months. There is always something to be done in that sphere, but it feels like a chore.

While I’ve been fortunate to enjoy many pleasurable coffee-led distractions provided by friends, engrossing books to read and the latest movies to watch, something is still missing.

One afternoon, I almost didn’t join the Zoom meeting of a community-based organisation I’d joined a year before. After all, it was just the AGM, and although I admired its mission to make Newcastle and Lake Macquarie more age-friendly places to live, its goals seemed amorphous. Then I remembered that the guest speaker was to talk about options for a wider range of housing alternatives for people as they aged. I clicked on.

Less than 24 hours later, I was a member of an advisory committee with the brief to set up a Homeshare program in Newcastle.

I’ve written about Homeshare in my memoir and been interested in it for some time, mainly as a possibility for me when, as seems likely, I survive my husband and decide to stay in this house. I’d not known that the homesharing concept had begun in the US in the 1970s and models can now be found in Europe, the UK, New Zealand and Australia.

In brief, Homesharing is ‘an intergenerational scheme for pairing older householders, who could benefit from help in the home and companionship, with mature individuals able to lend a hand in return for free accommodation. It is based on principles of connection, reciprocity and mutual benefit.’

One of several housing options that our community organisation could sponsor and develop, it will have a limited, niche appeal. But the attraction of Homeshare is that a handbook of ‘how to do it’ is available from a peak Homeshare oorganisation for Australia and New Zealand. The program could be set up and operational relatively quickly.

Within days I was participating in another Zoom sponsored by the peak body, learning more about Homeshare. The first meeting of our advisory committee is scheduled within weeks; funds are being sought and recruitment of a coordinator planned.

The details don’t matter; what does is that I feel interested, enlivened and engaged. The task is within my limited capacity. This is a standalone project to which I can contribute, a way in which I can help the community in which I live.

I feel as if I’ve been going round and round in ever-decreasing circles in my head; now I’ve broken free. In my walking-driving days, overseas travel or a local trip would give me the wider perspective I needed to refresh my life. A friend who also grew up in the country once counselled, in her down-to-earth way: ‘Get into a bigger paddock, Ruth – things will look different from there.’ Indeed, they do.

An overseas trip can shake up my life. Spain, 2007

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12 Responses

  1. Hello Ruth, I loved reading his post. Ive been in a bit of a whirlpool myself, and have sadly not been reading your posts as they arrive, just too preoccupied. Today I did, because how as the other grandmother could I possibly go past your opening sentence. I appreciate every sentiment expressed and am very interested in the idea of Home Share. Hopefully will see you in person soon and you can tell me more.

  2. Ruth, your interests range far and wide- Homesharing sounds useful and helpful. Your skills will add to the efficacy of setting it up. Thank you for the way you live your life and how much hope you share – always encouraged after reading your posts.

  3. Hi Ruth , I too have just binge read your last four posts . I love all your writings , but at the same time hate the many restrictions you are faced with ! We need a visit with you again soon and will organise it in the coming months . Oliver and Marcela arrive from London next week with a babe due to be born here in December . There’s a lot to catch you up on ?Love Always, G xxx

  4. Hi Ruth, I really enjoyed this last post. Yes, grandchildren seem to grow up too fast. Both my daughters children are at school now so I don’t see them as much as I would like. The houseshare project sounds like a wonderful thing to get your teeth into, so to speak. People with M.S. may benefit from your perspective in regards to this type of housing arrangement.
    Look forward to reading your next post. Jx

    1. Jan, thanks – you’ve raised a good point. Current models involve the person who receives free accommodation providing 10hpw of assistance to the older homeowner. It could be cooking, a little shopping, company etc. I understand the NDIA is having discussions with an interstate Homeshare provider about adapting the model as one possible alternative to group homes. People with Down Syndrome have already participated successfully in Homeshare apparently, as ‘tenants’. All very interestimg.

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