COVID Pandemic puts Retirement Plans on hold

By PSS | Posted: Monday August 10, 2020

There is no doubt the Coronavirus pandemic has put many New Zealander’s best-laid plans on hold – a case in point being intending-retiree Elaine Wells’ plan to spend quality time with her grandchildren, before master Tom was to join big sister Livie in his school debut.

A good month later than planned and without the fanfare of shared lunches and special morning teas, Elaine – Enliven Frankton Court (Retirement Village) Manager and Enliven Wakatipu SupportLink Coordinator – officially handed over the reins (in a socially-distanced responsible manner) on May 28th to her successor, Cherie-Morgan-McGrory.

“I find it hard to believe it will be 17 years come July,” says Elaine who has been aptly dubbed “the face of Enliven Wakatipu” by Presbyterian Support Southland colleagues and friends.

“I’m so going to miss the people. For me it’s always been about the people.”

Elaine, who is a registered nurse, has a long track record of caring and supporting the elderly which dates back to early days working at Invercargill’s (former) Lorne and Calvary hospitals.

In the 25 years she has lived in the Lakes District, Elaine says she has beared witness to “a phenomenal amount of growth and development” but loves the fact the area still sustains “a small-town feel and sense of community”.

She cites a recent example of the residents of Frankton Court Retirement Village banding together during Level Four Lockdown to hold a special ANZAC Dawn service to honour one of their own June-turning centenarian and ex-serviceman, Alex McBurney – the service complete with readings, prayer, ‘The Invercargill March’, national anthem and the ‘Last Post’.

Other parts of the job Elaine has found to be satisfying include having built up SupportLink in the Wakatipu Basin - a free service matching trained volunteers to help older people maintain their independence while living at home by offering a helping hand and companionship – from near non-existence to numbers that (now) reflect two thriving Coffee Clubs, and upwards of 30 volunteers and 40 senior citizen clients.

Elaine is also proud of the fact that during the entire time she was Enliven’s Wakatipu SupportLink Coordinator there had only ever been one match-up she might describe as ‘a fail’ and that was largely due to the client developing Alzheimer’s dementia.

“It’s been an absolute privilege seeing relationships grow and develop between our SupportLink volunteers and clients,” says Elaine.

“It’s a nice feeling knowing we’ve made a (positive) difference in people’s lives.”

Like any job, there were good days and some that could be improved upon. Elaine is grateful to have enjoyed the confidence and backing of the wider PSS family and has made friendships and memories that will endure long outside of the workplace.

“The time is right for me to go,” says Elaine.

“I’m older than a number of our residents and clients … And it’s high time I kickstart my new plan that involves having absolutely no plans at all!”