Work is underway to publish a book featuring fascinating true stories from Catholic Homes’ male residents.
The stories have been collated by members of the ‘Circle of Men,’ which is a group formed four years ago in an effort to encourage male residents to bond by sharing tales from their past.
It’s designed to forge friendships, encourage residents to value each other, acknowledge each other’s life journeys and minimise isolation and loneliness.
Meetings are held every other week at Trinity Village, Archbishop Goody, Ocean Star and Castledare. The gatherings are relaxed affairs, where the men drink tea and chat generally about both current issues and experiences they had when younger.
There’s a pressure free environment, so members just talk if they wish, but are free to simply listen if they prefer.
The initiative was started in Western Australia by Peter Fry, who saw the same model being run very successfully in Queensland. Each meeting is facilitated by two volunteers, who support members and encourage different topics of conversation.
“The meetings really are very uplifting occasions and I love to see the smile on members’ faces as they listen to each other’s stories,” Peter says.
“There’s a spirit in the room that’s very hard to describe, but it always leaves me feeling enriched.”
He says he has also witnessed the meetings evoking member’s caring side, with men making each other cups of tea and asking after absent members who usually attend, to check on their welfare.
An in-house evaluation study was carried out and evidence strongly suggests the Circle of Men meetings are good for the mens’ emotional health and wellbeing, with results revealing the majority are feeling happier and in higher spirits after each meeting.
“I love the comradeship and enjoy talking about old times,” 94 year old Tony O’Brien says.
“It’s also a nice change and something different from the day to day routine.”
Paul Travers, aged 90, said it’s a friendly gathering of the blokes.
“And we also get some nice cake!
“It’s fascinating hearing various happenings of our youth,” Mr Travers said.
Over the four years, the men’s incredible stories have been carefully collated and typed up, in preparation for the book, which it’s hoped will be published later this year.
Each man has lived an interesting life and many have amazing stories that people would never have heard about, if it were not for the group.
The book will be approx. 40 to 50 pages and include photographs and images that reflect Catholic Home’s core values of Joy, Love and Hospitality.
It’s also indicative of the Catholic Homes ‘Care with Purpose’ philosophy which encourages residents to continue to do the things they love and keep in touch with others.
Catholic Homes Care Innovation Leader Elizabeth Oliver says the Circle of Men helps those who would not benefit from some of the other regular meetings at the residences.
“A lot of men don’t fit into our regular group activities, like craft, knitting or cooking. The Circle of Men gives men from all our residences an opportunity to meet with like-minded men to discuss secret men’s business; no women allowed! I know a lot look forward to attending each fortnight and they form close connections with the other members. The Volunteer Facilitators, led by Peter Fry, run a tight ship, never missing a meeting and are always going above and beyond to allow each man to share his story.”
The project has been well received by the aged care industry and was awarded a “Better Practice” award for Clinical Care two years ago, from the Quality Agency.
Originally published in Dove, Spring 2017. Re-published with permission.