When the announcement was made that the country was going into Level 4 lockdown Oakwoods Retirement Village went into a lockdown the Prime Minister would have been proud of.

From the start, all entrances were locked bar one which is manned from 6am to 11pm, signing in all visitors and staff, and then night security take over to patrol the grounds until 6am. Visiting was banned and all essential visitors and staff to the site were temperature tested. Visitors, such as contractors, completed a health declaration.

The three different areas of the village; the villas, catered apartments and the care facility, were isolated from each other and the village manager Andrew Morrison and catering manager moved in and remained on site for the entire first five weeks.

Those residents who are in a serviced apartment still have communal dining as the dining room is large enough for the residents to sit two metres apart.

“Usually people like to sit in the same seat, but it’s been interesting to see a few residents mixing it up during the lockdown,” says Andrew.

With the help of Gary Watson from Fresh Choice Richmond the residents in the villas have been able to maintain their isolation but still get the groceries they wanted through on-line shopping. These were delivered to the main gate and then two residents, Eric Peterson and Dave Polglase, loaded them into a van and delivered them to the villas, essential for the over-70’s who needed to keep in isolation.

“It was a case of ‘over-caring’ in a situation like this, says Andrew, “newsletters have been sent out twice weekly to give residents up-to-date information.”

Along with staff training and infection control, staff have tried to fill the void left by families unable to visit. On Anzac Day a piper greeted those up at sunrise and a BBQ was organised.

Regular activities are held such as exercise classes and a puzzle swap table means no-one must do the same jigsaw puzzle.

“The response from the staff has been amazing, “says Andrew. “The willingness to do long hours, long weeks and extra training because they care about and want the best for the residents is fantastic.”

Three members of one family work at Oakwoods. Stille Paskins is Clinical Manager and her husband Roger works as a carpenter/test and tag and now security. Their son Morten should be in Denmark, but his trip had to be cancelled.

“When my ticket was cancelled, I decided to take a job to fight the virus that got me stuck here in the first place and help keep the people at Oakwoods safe and happy,” says Morten.

Sentiments echoed by village Manager Andrew.

“Living on site for the five weeks has given me a different perceptive on the village, the openness and friendliness of this small community of ours. I knew it was there but to experience it was fantastic and I learnt what was important for residents and what wasn’t, and I hope to be a better manager for it.”

Resident Mike Rodwell was certainly thankful for the sacrifice the staff made for the residents.

“We were aware of what was happening in other retirement villages, and it was reassuring to have the manager on site 24 hours a day,” Mike says. “Although not being allowed out wasn’t nice, at least here we had the staff to keep our spirits up.

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