Abbeyfield stalwart retires

Following a seminar on Ageing and Accomodation options in Mount Gambier some 35 years ago, a group of members of the Mount Gambier Rotary Club formed a steering committee to address the shortage of suitable housing for elderly people of limited income at that time.

The group, including businessmen John Fatchen, Ross Clark, Bill Braithwaite and Neil Dickins among others, settled on the UK Abbeyfield House model, which is to establish a house for 10 independent active aged residents, with a live-in housekeeper.

Following a successful public appeal, the project sought and obtained additional funding from the Kessal bequest and Government Community Housing Project, as well as Legacy once the late Charlie Miller OAM became involved.

With further guaranteed support from City Council, Uniting Church and numerous local businesses, architect Stephen Herbert was engaged to plan a purpose-built house on the old tennis courts in Francis Street.

Mount Gambier’s Abbeyfield House, only the second in Australia, was opened by State Governor Dame Roma Mitchell in April 1991. All this was under the leadership and watchful eye of land surveyor Neil Dickins as chairman of the new Abbeyfield Society.

Mr Dickins, now OAM, has been actively involved on the house management committee right through until a month ago, most of that time as chairman, reluctantly stepping down at the age of 95.

Mr Dickins’ acknowledged that his retirement from Abbeyfield marked “the end of an era” for him and his community involvement.

Mr Dickins said one of the highlights of his Abbeyfield involvement was to regularly visit the house with his wife Bernice for “happy hour” or enjoy a roast of with the residents.

Their daughter Kerry Probert has also spent time on the house committee, adding “dad also loved establishing and maintaining the garden, providing residents with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables”.

Whilst often fully occupied, Abbeyfield House now has some vacancies and provides an ideal alternative for those looking for the company and security of shared accommodation. The housekeeper provides two wholesome meals per day and attends to cleaning of communal areas.

The current, past and future residents of Abbeyfield can thank the foresight of Mr Dickins and his cohorts in providing a perfect place as an option for those who do not need to live in a care facility.

The food and running costs at Abbeyfield are covered by a fortnightly house fee, with no upfront contribution required. Potential residents can arrange a tour of the House with a member of the management committee via admin@abbeyfield.org.au, or 8725 1718 weekdays.

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