Caring for CALD seniors

VMCH’s innovative Multicultural Wellness Centre (MWC) has expanded its reach to help connect more socially isolated seniors.

The centre has gone from strength to strength since opening 17 months ago; building its Chinese and Filipino social groups to 80 and 16 members respectively and recently forming a Sri Lankan group for people aged over 65 of Sri Lankan/Sinhalese-speaking background.

“Being socially isolated can reduce life expectancy and overall health, both physically and emotionally,” said VMCH Day Centre Coordinator Lynne Cahir.

“While there are many groups for people of Italian and Greek backgrounds, we found there was not much support for the Sri Lankan community.  Language can also be a barrier. Most of the members do speak English but it still may be a bit of a challenge so we always have a staff member who speaks Sinhalese and encourage members to chat in their native language.”

Members meet weekly to socialise, undertake cooking classes, exercise classes, go on community outings and listen to guest speakers.

Corrine Kelaart, 66, migrated to Australia in 1994.  Since 2003, she has experienced racial discrimination and depression. She lives alone and struggles with missing her two children and grandchildren in Sri Lanka. 

“Everybody (in the group) is so nice and they make me feel very welcome,” Corrine said.  “Every Monday I get up extra early, I don’t even need to set an alarm, and get ready to come.  I would be very lonely if I missed this.”

Corrine encouraged more CALD seniors to come along.

“There might be a lot of people like me out there facing a lot of problems who don’t have a place to go to.  It’s been a help for me.”

Fellow group member Rita Padmaperuma, who also receives a Home Care Package from VMCH, described it as a “nice community”.

“We have a chit chat and a cup of tea, do some chair exercises, have lunch and play some games. I like listening to other people’s problems and helping if I can.”

The MWC is open to seniors aged 65 years and over from CALD backgrounds, living in Melbourne’s eastern metro region. A daily attendance fee includes meals and activities. Fee reduction is available for anyone who is experiencing financial difficulty.

For more information about the MWC call Rani Wong on (03) 9800 7255.

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