Creating a feeling of belonging at Sacred Heart Community

Olivia Killeen, Communication and Social Policy Officer
Olivia Killeen Communication and Social Policy Officer
8 November 2022
Lifestyle Coordinators Santi and Tammy

Our residents at Sacred Heart Community are busy people. The lifestyle program, coordinated by Life Matters Coordinators Santi and Tammy, keeps residents engaged and active within their home and the local community.

Social inclusion is extremely important at Sacred Heart Community, which is a home for life for our residents. Many of them have experienced significant trauma and social isolation in the past, and Sacred Heart Community is their first safe and secure home.

In contrast to most aged care services who have more female residents, around two-thirds of Sacred Heart Community residents are male. Many of the male residents are sports fans, especially AFL, so Santi often builds group conversations around the latest matches, which the residents love.

Santi came to work at Sacred Heart Mission 15 years ago after seeking a career change towards a more ‘community minded’ role. He initially started working as a Personal Care Assistant prior to moving into the Lifestyle area. Tammy has worked in aged care for around ten years and has a background in interior design.

Hand-painted boomerangs

Arts workshops, music and more

They make a great team, bouncing ideas off each other and drawing on each other’s range of skills to prepare a dynamic program for residents to participate in as much or as little as they like. Examples include arts and crafts workshops, cooking, music, exercises, quizzes, gardening, bus trips, visits to the cinema, musical bingo – the list goes on.

The Hive, an open space for residents to do arts and crafts at their leisure, features music, tea and coffee facilities and is open much of the day for people to pop in and express their creativity.

The team are creative about ensuring residents can participate in a range of activities on a budget, considering that our residents are full pensioners. They recently went to the cinema to see the Elvis Presley biopic. To bring costs down, they went on a Tight Tuesday for $12 tickets, and the theatre allowed them to bring their own lunch.

Our residents meet quarterly to make suggestions for activities and other aspects of their home life. They also have a large footy tipping competition and a Melbourne Cup Day sweep each year which brings in considerable excitement.

Furry visitors

Santi and Tammy also engage a pet therapy program through the Delta Society. Pooch Frankie visits the residents once a fortnight with his owner. Staff members also bring in their dogs to visit and connect with residents.

Tammy says having animals at Sacred Heart Community is positive for residents and staff. “The pets make such an impact on everybody, it’s lovely. Without a little four-legged friend, it’s so different.”

“Those who don’t engage with us, will engage with the dogs!” says Santi. “They don’t discriminate, if there’s a lap there to be sat on, they will jump up and give some love.”

Head-shaving for a good cause

Many of the residents are enthusiastic about giving back to the community. Santi came up with the idea of the World’s Greatest Shave for the Leukaemia Foundation. Santi and around 15 residents have been shaving their heads each year for the last seven years, with residents donating gold coins in support.

They also run an annual morning tea with gold coin donations to support a charity based in the Northern Territory that provides education programs for children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“It gives them a sense of value, wellbeing and purpose. A lot of our residents realise how lucky they are and how generous people are towards them and so this is a way for them to acknowledge that and do the same,” says Santi.

“They really want to help others in their own way,” says Tammy.

“It’s whatever the residents want”

Tammy and Santi both love what they do. “It’s different every day, and the people here are really genuine and authentic,” says Tammy.

“The challenge of trying to engage everyone, particularly someone who’s been resistant in the past, finding out tidbits of their lives you didn’t know. And you’re always being thanked for the smallest thing,” says Santi.

“The residents are very grateful – they’ve all had some sort of trauma in their lives and now they’re in a home. It’s whatever they want, completely resident-focused and -driven.”