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HomeShare helps an older new, New Zealander

22 November 2019

A recently widowed Bella left everyone and everything she knew in Fiji to live with her son and his family in New Zealand. “In my culture,” said Bella, who is Fijian-Indian, “parents are looked after by the son, so I moved here to be with mine.”

Bella had a busy social life in Fiji. A retired teacher, Bella filled her days with gardening, clubs and societies, and social work. Bella says she mixes comfortably “with everybody, all types of people”.

However, in New Zealand it was difficult for Bella to re-create that community connection she’d enjoyed in her homeland. “My neighbour was a kiwi lady and we used to talk, but she moved to a retirement village,” said Bella. “Then I started going to a weekly coffee group of retired teachers. Unfortunately, when the organiser fell ill, the coffee group folded."

With her son and his family busy with their own lives, Bella began to miss company and to feel like she “didn’t have her own things going on”. She also wanted to spend time with people her own age. “You have common things to talk about,” she said.

After a hospital visit, Bella’s GP referred her to an Enliven HomeShare service in Christchurch to help her get out of the house and meet friends. Even though she knew she would be the only non-Pakeha in the HomeShare group, Bella wasn’t nervous. “I was just excited and happy,” she said.

On HomeShare days, Bella is transported to the venue and back, and she enjoys a hot meal—a vegetarian one for her—plus games and activities. “We go out for walks, which I really like, and every time we have something different to do,” said Bella. “But by talking to each other, we are making each other happy. Just talking is so important.” Bella observes that even quiet people are included at HomeShare. “The volunteers walk the quieter people to the table and include them in the activities,” she said.

Bella has always been an active person, so she also enthusiastically helps out. “I get picked up early so I told Isabel, our HomeShare host that if there is anything I can do to help, I want to do it. Now I set out tea cups before the meeting starts.”

Bella’s Sydney-based daughter calls her regularly and one day she commented that Bella sounded “very happy today”. “I’d been to HomeShare,” Bella recalled. “I did feel happy after being with other people.”

Bella wishes the HomeShare service were available in Fiji, because she knows there are so many lonely women who need it. And of lonely older people in New Zealand she said, “There may be people around who are lovely but have no friends. I wish they could come to know and join the group. People talk about love, and when you go to HomeShare, you find love.”

HomeShare

The Enliven HomeShare service brings older people with shared interests together in the comfort of a host's private home or suitable community facility.

If you or a loved one is 60 years or older, is feeling lonely or isolated, HomeShare could be just the thing!

Find out more about HomeShare here.

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