Making sure his elderly parents stay together, while receiving hospital-level care, has been a priority for Ian Cocks, as well as Elmswood Retirement Village staff.
Joan (97) and Errol (99) Cocks have been residents at different facilities under the Elmswood umbrella since 2009, when they first moved into a villa.
What has impressed their Christchurch-based son the most about Elmswood is the way the caring and proactive staff have assessed and managed what is best for his parents every step of the way.
“My brother and I don’t want to see them separated,” Ian says.
“They’re now both in hospital care but have rooms beside each other and spend a good proportion of their day together, which is what they wanted. It has worked out very well and the staff are absolutely dedicated.”
The decision to move into an Elmswood villa was made by the whole Cocks family when Joan and Errol realised it was becoming more and more difficult to live in their own home.
While they looked at two or three places, Elmswood “seemed ideal for them”.
The villa backed onto Colwyn Street and had direct entry, which provided great independent living. “Dad was still driving at the time and when they saw it, they liked it,” Ian says. “It was local, they knew the area, and it was the ideal set-up.”
With time, they moved into an apartment, but when Joan suffered a fall, Joan, Errol and their family discussed her need for further care with Elmswood staff.
So that they weren’t separated, Joan and Errol moved into Elmswood’s rest home and settled into suites that were close to each other.
When their needs increased, they shifted into the newly-opened hospital wing.
“The entire process has been a smooth transition,” Ian says. “There’s a lot of trust.”
“It’s an ongoing assessment with Elmswood staff. They have a very clear view about transitioning from one area of need to the next and they have always consulted my brother and I, along with mum and dad. The worst possible thing would have been if they had said, ‘sorry, there are no facilities available’.”
He highlights the importance of communication with Elmswood staff as, “you never know when that higher level of care will be required”.
“I don’t have anything but positive things to say about Elmswood.”
Living in Auckland, Gaye Tozer often used to struggle with knowing her elderly mother was living on her own in Christchurch.
But, when 93-year-old Allison MacKenzie moved into Elmswood Retirement Village, it provided them both with the peace of mind that she was well-cared for and surrounded by support.
“Before, every time the phone rang, I would think, ‘oh my goodness, has she fallen?’ But now I know people are looking after her and one of the big pluses is having the hospital onsite,” Gaye says.
“They’re keeping such a close eye on Mum and when she did have a fall recently, I immediately got called and emailed.”
Allison was still living in her own home three years ago, when the family became worried about her safety and security at night.
Still fit and active, she moved into a two-bedroom apartment at another location, but a year later she suffered some falls that created some confusion.
After time in Christchurch and Burwood Hospitals, the family realised Allison needed a facility with full-time care.
For Auckland-based Gaye and her sister, who lives in Rome, the decision was a tough one.
“There had been discussions about whether she should come to Auckland but she still had a lot of family and friends in Christchurch, where she has always lived,” Gaye says.
“She needs full-time care and the only visit would be from me, as opposed to quite a few visitors at Elmswood.”
“When I mentioned it to her, her response was: ‘Wairakei Road! I know lots of people there’.”
Gaye visited a number of Christchurch sites before making a final decision, and while they were “beautiful, with wonderful facilities” Elmswood felt right for her mother.
When a vacancy became available, everything moved very quickly, she says.
As she was shifting in, staff asked lots of questions about her life and interests, which meant a lot to the family.
“I have nothing but praise for the way the staff have treated me, and our mother,” Gaye says. “They’re always available and willing to talk and never seem under pressure.
“The standard of food is also excellent. I’m really, really happy with everything about Elmswood.”
For Isabel Suckling, the best part of living in a villa at Elmswood Retirement Village is the perfect mix of independence and social interaction.
On the days she prefers her own company, she has all the peace and quiet she fancies.
But, if she’s feeling like a conversation, or needs any help, staff and friends are right there on her doorstep.
“When you walk down the road, you’ll always chat to someone,” Isabel says.
The lifelong Cantabrian, even has two school friends living at Elmswood, and plays bridge at the retirement village three times a week.
She decided to move from her family home six years ago, after she broke her hip following a fall. She spent time at Burwood Hospital before moving into her new, smartly-designed villa.
Knowing that hospital facilities are now on site has been an added bonus for Isabel and her family.
Another plus in living at Elmwood is that her family – which includes three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild – live locally.
Isabel also grew up in the area and, during wartime, was called on to work at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
Throughout her life, she’s been an outdoors person, and rates skiing and playing tennis as her favourite activities.
For Isabel, Elmswood Retirement Village ticks all the boxes. She is able to retain her own space and privacy, but also join in with activities and engage socially, if she wishes.
“If you’re in a villa, you have your own independence, and you can cook for yourself,” she says.
“Your family have to lead their own lives, too. The big thing is, it feels small, but it’s got a hospital for ongoing care.”
For Warwick Redmayne, knowing Elmswood staff are happy in their work, is a good indicator of how the whole place operates.
“One nurse told me she enjoys coming to work so much,” he says. “It seems to attract good nurses and that filters down. It’s so important.”
Warwick moved into Elmswood hospital at the same time the new hospital wing opened.
He had lived in his own home, after his wife died 12 years ago, but he found being alone and suffering from heart trouble and chest problems was becoming too much.
“I’ve been in and out of Christchurch Hospital, which was excellent, but I reached the stage I couldn’t stay at home on my own,” Warwick says.
“My son had a good look around to see what was available, and thought, this was the place.”
“I like it here because it’s new, there’s good heating, it’s nice and clean, and the facilities are excellent. It’s lovely and warm.”
Another bonus is access to a local doctor who is linked to Elmswood and nursing staff who are available on-call in the hospital, 24 hours a day.
Aside from a few years in Dunedin, Warwick has always lived in Christchurch.
He has a special interest in medical equipment, as he is a former managing director of the medical, dental and scientific division of EBOS, an importer of medical instruments.
“It was cutting-edge,” he says. “And there was always something new happening; that was the attraction. I enjoyed working with people.”
Barbara Callaway has always loved the great outdoors. During wartime, she worked on farms for the Women’s Land Service, and recalls many wonderful family trips away skiing and tramping.
The free-spirit still enjoys spending time amongst nature and, now living at Elmswood Retirement Village, she has the best of both worlds.
She is especially proud to show off the impressive array of daffodils and hyacinths blooming from the garden pots surrounding her peaceful villa. “You’re allowed unlimited garden pots, so I have 56,” she laughs.
“I’m so lucky. You need to be an independent person to come and live in a villa and that’s the joy of it.”
Born and raised in Christchurch, just a few blocks from Elmswood Retirement Village, Barbara went to Rangi Ruru Girls’ School and studied commerce at the University of Canterbury.
But, when war broke out, the government began conscripting 18-20 year-olds “and, unless you were a teacher or a nurse, there was no exception”.
Barbara joined the Women’s Land Service. “I’d always wanted to be a farmer,” she says. “There’s no heritage of farming in my family, I just wanted to be a farmer and it turned out I was a bloody good farmer.”
She worked at properties in Windwhistle, Fairlie and Darfield, before answering an emergency call for help from a farmer at Rydaldowns, Okuku. The farmer’s sons were at war and Barbara became the fourth girl, working with the female-run Corriedale stud farm. As VE Day approached, the farm had doubled production. “It was the best part of my life,” Barbara says.
Barbara went on to marry highways engineer, Jack Callaway, and they purchased a section, one street over from her childhood home in Glandovey Road. They had two sons and spent a lot of time skiing and tramping together. “It was a wonderful life,” Barbara says.
After a move to Auckland for four years, Barbara returned to Christchurch and was living in a retirement village, but after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, she wanted to be back on her “own side of town”.
Her family helped her to find the “perfect villa” at Elmswood in 2012. “I thought it was marvellous,” she says. “The staff were absolutely lovely and everybody became best friends. It’s just delightful and I have the most perfect neighbour next door.”
The fiercely independent woman says the combination of privacy – and ongoing support if she needs it – suits her perfectly. For instance, if she wants to keep to herself and enjoy her garden, she can, and if she’s ever feeling under the weather, she can request that Elmswood provide her with meals.
“It’s what you make of it for yourself,” she says. “It’s independent living; we look after ourselves and do our own things, and I’m grateful for that. You have to make your own fun.”
Mary Adams-Taylor’s life has revolved around music and it remains a vital part of her daily activities in a serviced apartment at Elmswood Retirement Village.
She attends music club, catches up with fellow retired music teachers, joins in with sing-a-longs, and even has a piano in her apartment.
It’s not uncommon for past students to pop in and seek the advice of the former music teacher.
“I’ve had a very happy musical life,” Mary says. “I love teaching, and have made great friends with a lot of my students; music made wonderful links and relationships for me.
Born and raised in Australia, Mary lived with her husband Jack, in Newcastle and Sydney, before deciding to venture across the ditch for a new life in New Zealand.
Jack, who was also a teacher, first found work in Oamaru, but when a position came up at Medbury School, they shifted to Christchurch.
“We found our place here,” Mary says. “People were very welcoming and it was a good place for us to work.”
The couple settled in Riccarton and Mary was a singing teacher, before lecturing in vocal studies at the University of Canterbury for 10 years prior to her retirement.
She and Jack had two children, followed by three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
When Jack passed away, Mary found it difficult to manage the family home, garden and business responsibilities. Her children came down from the North Island and, together, they inspected various Christchurch retirement villages.
Elmswood won Mary’s heart from the outset. “You know how you go into a place and there’s an atmosphere? We had a chat with the lady in charge and everyone made me feel very comfortable,” Mary says.
“When I wasn’t well, they were so kind to me. They took my meals into my room and did anything I wanted them to do, so I feel very, very happy here.”
Mary gives Elmswood Retirement Village top marks for its overall feeling, atmosphere, and level of care.
“If someone is thinking about moving to Elmswood, I would say, ‘think about me. I’ve been so happy, so healthy, and so fit here. I’m an advertisement for Elmswood’.”