THE walls of Aquinas Court Retirement Village - sturdy structures housing a community of 33 residents, are now celebrating 25 years of standing tall. This quarter century milestone brought managers, residents, friends and family together in a sacred blessing onsite.
Julia Abrahams, Catholic Healthcare’s General Manager of Legal and Mission and Dominic Arcamone, Catholic Healthcare’s Mission Manager, travelled to Springwood in the lower Blue Mountains on 5 July to share a blessing on behalf of the organisation. They were joined by special guests from local parishes, family, friends and village residents, some of whom have been residing in Aquinas Court for nearly two decades.
Aquinas Court Retirement Village has provided a home for seniors of the mountains for 25 years, adjoining the onsite chapel which will soon celebrate its own birthday of a full century of operation since its establishment in 1919.
While history figures prominently at Aquinas Court, the residents assert it’s the power of the close-knit community that really captures the spirit of the village.
Elizabeth Lonergan, Chairperson of the Retirement Committee and a resident of the village herself, says the community of residents are often brought together through social gatherings, mutual interest activities and frequent day-trips.
“There’s so much going on each week, and all the activities are voted in by the residents themselves, so there’s a true sense of independence and assurance that they’re enjoying the things they love,” says Elizabeth. “From the knitting group and chess clubs to yoga classes, cafe outings and even U3A [University of the Third Age] - life is never boring in Aquinas Court.”
It’s the ideal life of retirement living enjoyed by many in Springwood. The quarter-century village birthday draws a conglomeration of guests into the communal recreation room - a recent property development integrated into the original chapel structure. Whilst sizeable, it only just accommodates the excited visitors and a giant strawberry and cream cake - a residential favourite made specifically for the occasion.
One particular resident, Jean Yarker, celebrates her own two decade-long residence in the village this year, sharing 20 years of memories at the celebration with fellow residents and village managers. Originally hailing from Manchester in the UK, Jean delights in the traditional British sponge cake while reminiscing on her time in the village; an unexpected transition, she explains, from her life in Sydney for 30 years.
Jean says she made the choice to move into the village to help with the maintenance of day-to-day tasks that suddenly weren’t as simple to manage upon the shock loss of her partner in 1996.
“I was still living in Sydney when my husband passed away, and that was when I decided to come here,” explains Jean. “But my experience in the village and the Blue Mountains has been amazing. Now, after 20 years here - I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
Jean and her fellow residents explain that while the community interaction is always available - living in the village allows for as much independence as you like, with the added bonus of having like-minded people as your neighbours.
“We don’t live in each other’s pockets, but we all get along great - don’t we?” says Jean, friendily-elbowing fellow resident Kathleen, nodding in agreement.
And while the crisp freshness of the Blue Mountains air could be the catalyst for the happy bug infecting the Aquinas Court Retirement Village, residents seem more intent on commending the village lifestyle than life outside the retirement community - a true attest to the staff, residents and tailored Catholic Healthcare experience.
“We’re really well-cared for here,” says Elizabeth, earnestly. “It’s a peaceful community, and we’ve got a connection to the space, and each other. You just wouldn’t live anywhere else.”