Ageing Well Episode 1

Ageing Well

Every Wednesday at 7:04 am, Co.As.It.’s Team presents a 15 minutes show called Ageing Well at Reading Radio Brisbane (1296 AM). 

Ageing Well is a show created to explore age-related subjects, such as dementia, social isolation, exercises, and social hubs, among others. In our first episode, we talked to Paola Matute, the NDIS Coordinator at Co.As.It, on how art and creative programs can contribute to NDIS outcomes.

Listen to our first episode here:

Casa Aurelia celebrates 20 years of Rose

Rose at Casa Aurelia

Around 80,000 clients served and hundreds of hours worked in two decades of pure dedication and commitment to delivering well-being to the senior community in Brisbane.

SGA (Social Group Activities Centres) Coordinator Rosetta Sirianni, or Rose, has blown out the candles of 20 years of work with Co.As.It. Community Services.

Amid gifts and slices of cake at Casa Aurelia (centre in Acacia Ridge), Rose made sure to affectionately hug one-by-one: members of the team and her nurtured clients.

Being able to write down books with many stories accumulated over the years, Rose tried to summarize some of the moments she has experienced at Co.As.It.

Unforgettable Moments
“I think every day is [an unforgettable day] by just coming in here and seeing the clients been thankful at the end of the day. But, sure, after Covid-19 was really special when everyone appreciated the groups even more.”

Biggest Challenges
“Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge. There haven’t been that many huge challenges over the years. I would say keeping the groups interested and creating ongoing activities for them. So, they’ll be interested in coming every day.”

Most Important Lessons
“Listen, listen, and keep learning, always learning. Even now, I’m still learning. There’s much more to teach and show them [the clients].”

Secret for Longevity
“You need to like your job, not love it. Because you can love anything, but you need to like it. I get up in the morning, and I’m ready to go. There is also perseverance. You don’t give up because something gets hard. It gets tricky, but you work through it with your staff. My staff is my backbone, without them…”

[Rose gets emotional. The Marketing Team decides to put the camera and notes aside to give her a well-deserved hug.]

Social Outings – Byron Bay

The heavy rain alerts didn’t stop our captivating Social Outing group from having a fantastic time in Byron Bay on October 20. Clients wanted to reminisce on the old days when they frequented the area.

The first stop was at the Social Brew Cafe at Burleigh Heads. A delicious morning tea made up of incredible types of sweets served as fuel for the long day ahead. Hours later, at the RSL, the clients were ready to enjoy a wine and meal of their choice, followed by apple pie and ice cream dessert.

Nothing is better after a tasty meal than visiting the town centre for some shopping therapy – they had plenty of fun. On the way home, our group was accompanied by Elvis Presley as the bus driver put on a classic movie of the rock legend.

Euro Concert Gold Coast – A Huge Success

The Glades Golf Club in Robina served as a stage for Co.As.It. Euro Concert at the Gold Coast, a seniors’ multicultural celebration that will be long remembered, as declared by the public. As part of Queensland Senior’s Month, the Euro Concert drew a crowd from diverse backgrounds who took over the dance floor and (almost) didn’t let it go. A hamper and several wines were giveaways as part of the Lucky door prizes.

While the public relished refreshments, including a Chef’s selection of sandwiches, savouries and sweets, Musical Director Frank Debellis and Australian indie artist Vince Gelonese were in charge of Latin classic tracks.

“Euro Concert is important because we have been isolated for two years without going anywhere. This is really the first outing after so many restrictions. Getting together and celebrating like this is so beneficial,” guest Claire Garcia said. “I would be attending events like this every month. I love music and dancing, a perfect combination well served at the Euro Concert,” affirmed Samar Moubayed before heading to the dance floor.

Co.As.It. Care Services Manager based at the South Coast office, Rosario Occhipinti, said it is a relief to finally be back with the community. “We’re going to look at doing more events now, bring the community together more often. We can see it today; people are enjoying it, and they’ve all expressed their approval for more events. Even those not on the dance floor are celebrating, so I think one event is not enough,” said Rosario.

Euro Concert Gold Coast was granted contribution funding from COTA (Council on the Ageing) and the Gold Coast City Council.

Her Grandson’s Special Day

At Co.As.It. our qualified support worker team is always prepared to look after the well-being of over 6,000 clients with different needs and routines. In 2020/2021, the Co.As.It. team provided more than 365,000 hours of service, bringing our customers closer to their families and creating memorable cultural celebrations for each of them.

It’s not every day your grandchild gets married. Sometimes health and mobility can get in the way of being at a wedding ceremony, especially when it’s far from home.

Co.As.It. client, Elizabeth Di Trapani (85), managed to celebrate such a remarkable family moment thanks to Mandeep Kaur, her tireless support care worker.

Mandy, as Mandeep likes to be called, and Elizabeth are “a match made in heaven”, and their instant connection began just a month before the event. Believe it or not, at the bridal shower. That was Mandy’s first shift with the client, and straight away, she faced a challenge: getting Elizabeth to the party.

“Elizabeth and I were waiting for the taxi, but the driver didn’t show up”, says Mandy. However, Mandy was determined to come through for Elizabeth: “I had to run against time, but in the end, we managed to get to the party,” tells Mandy.

One month later, they met once again, this time for the main event. “I drove around 40 minutes to take Elizabeth to the wedding. It was priceless to witness her happiness.”

At the wedding, Mandy states, she felt like part of the Di Trapani family. “They were so happy to see her. We stayed for the ceremony, photos and buffet. I can tell that I was part of the family, not a worker.”

Mandeep Kaur has been with Co.As.It. since 2017.

New Stars of Rock’n’Roll

Staff at the Social Group Centres at Co.As.It. Community Services created a new theme to help client’s revisit great memories. Welcome Rock’n’Roll Week. An initiative created by coordinators who run centres in north and west Brisbane inspired by the recent release of the Elvis Movie.

Each day the social group staff welcome clients who are transported by a minibus picking them up and dropping them off at home. Social groups are funded by the Australian government to assist with social support and connection, mitigating loneliness and isolation. The “groups” as they are affectionately known are a unique offering in Co.As.It’s deck of high quality community care.

Rock’n’Roll Week developed into a colorful musical celebration beyond expectations. You see, not only did it endear the clients to memories of songs, food, fun and dancing – but the effect it had on staff was remarkable. An Elvis costume transformed the unassuming community care worker Edmond Arconado into a hip-shaking ‘Elvis’ delighting all of the clients. In keeping with the theme, delicious sundaes were served at morning tea. All of the staff began singing and dancing and the affect this had on clients was contagious – many of them joined in, rocking-and-rolling or toe tapping along with the music. Frilled skirts and bandanas in bright colours danced around the room.

Dressing up is an option for clients as well. They are advised ahead of time and given the option to add something to their outfit to help them celebrate the theme. Enter Elva Sani. A new client who at the age of 95 years made the trip to live in Brisbane to be with her daughter. Tied around Elva’s neck was a red ribbon. On the one end was a bread-roll and the other end a large rock from her garden. A unique take on the theme. All staff and clients were in hysterics. Another star is born with a fun sense of humour and much loved by all.

Clients Celebrate Italian National Day

OUR  social groups were immersed in all that is Italian during the week of the Italian National Day Celebrations.  Celebrating the 76th National Day of the Republic of Italy on 2nd June this year, clients and staff danced in traditional folk costumes to their favourite music and songs of their youth.  Both Casa Serena and Casa Aurelia activity centres were decorated to homage to Italian culture. They not only celebrated the heritage of those who have immigrated here, but also introduced and included the worldly clients who participate in centre activities, native Australians and beyond. Following a delicious spread of Italian staple foods like Antipasto, Farfalle in pesto and Tortellini in Sugo, the day turned to embrace another culinary staple; wine.

A winemaking demonstration took place at the centres as this plays a signification role in their culture, economy and health and it is something that many Italian immigrants themselves have brought with them to Australia. To honour this aspect of Italian heritage, centres participated in the classic foot-stomping methods of winemaking. Along with winemaking, clients were invited to dance along to traditional Italian music, making this an event that was sensory as much as it was fun. At Casa Serena, seeing the act of the grapes being crushed underfoot made one client emotional as it evoked a memory of her childhood back home in Spain.

Clients expressed their gratitude for the experience that not only reminded them of Italy, but of family as well. Upon experiencing the festivities, one client shared her story of immigrating to Australia from Italy by boat in 1959. She came with three small children, the youngest being only 9 months at the time to join her husband who was working here, “I joined him with three small children to help him work on the houses.”

While some revisited memories of home and others explored cultural traditions that were completely new to them, it seems that everyone was able to take away something meaningful from the experience and overindulging in Italian food.  One way Casa Aurelia honored Italian heritage while also including other cultures was through song. The group sang one ballad completely in Italian, “Romagna Mia”, and another in English, “Che Serà Serà.” The experience of singing “Romagna Mia” was poignant in its theme, as it tells the story of a man’s nostalgia for his homeland in Italy, but also as a bilingual challenge in memory. Not only were the Italian Week events successful in evoking memories and blending cultures, they also encouraged clients to participate in activities that stimulate balance, movement, cognition and more.

 

 

Latin Dancing in Lutwyche

HAVE you always wanted to learn Latin Dance but not sure where to start? Do you prefer smaller groups of people to learn with? Consider joining our community centre Latin Dance Classes at Co.As.It. in Lutwyche. The classes are held by a professional and friendly dance teacher who will have you in a shimmy in no time.

With only $5 a class the lessons will not break the budget, while getting you into a fabulous new routine.  According to the State Health Department the benefits of dancing include:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs.
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness.
  • increased aerobic fitness.
  • improved muscle tone and strength.
  • weight management.
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility

We have a new class starting soon on Thursday from 3pm to 4pm at 473 Lutwyche Road, Lutwyche – with plenty of parking in nearby streets or at the Lutwyche Shopping Centre.  Just call us on 3624 6100 to book your spot!

 

IWD2022 a Great Success

MORE than 300 guests attended Co.As.It.’s high tea for International Women’s Day (IWD), Saturday 12th March held at the Rose Room at Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. The theme, celebrating women, the heart in our community, was reflected in a mini documentary outlining the brilliant volunteering work done by women who volunteer in our Italian community.

Co.As.It. acknowledged the selfless work of three women who were interviewed: Ruth Allison who has been volunteering every Wednesday at Co.As.It.’s Casa Serena Social Centre for more than 15 years, Carmela Bozzi OAM who volunteers for the church and many other organisations in the Italian community, and Paolina Greco who volunteers as part of Co.As.It.’s Community Visitor Scheme, attending residential aged care facilities each week for over 10 years. They talked about the work they do, what motivates them and how their work has helped others.

Speeches by the Hon. Grace Grace acknowledged the leadership by Co.As.It. CEO Cav. Dina Ranieri, and the importance of equal representation of women in public roles and governance, and Lady Mayoress Nina Schrinner talked about dementia affecting women more than men, and encouraged all guests to support the fundraising efforts by the organisation.

Guests were treated to a professional fashion show curated by Laura Churchill from Brisbane Fashion Month featuring local designers Anannasa, Chamani, Red Ridge the Label, Annalisse Designs, Maiocchi, and Jericho Road Clothing. The collections were modelled by Co.As.It. staff and friends and was enthusiastically supported by guests.

Thanks to the wonderful enduring sponsorship from Cav. Fil D’Arro from Italiquore, guests enjoyed complimentary prosecco, as well as a delicious high tea including scones, hot savoury pastries and gourmet sweets. Over 43 raffle prizes were won, with proceeds going towards Co.As.It.’s dementia and wellness program. A fully sold-out event that will stay in the hearts of all who attended.

 

A message from one of our VIPs Julie Morrow:

I had the pleasure of attending Co.As.It’s International Women’s Day event on Saturday 12 March at Cloudland. It’s been a while since I’ve attended an event of this size and I’d have to say that 300 women in one room makes for a fun, loud and exciting atmosphere.

Journalist Kim Skubris MC’d this colourful event that helps raise funds to support Co.As.It’s dementia support services. We watched a video, celebrating three of Co.As.It’s valued volunteers and the difference they make to individuals and the community and were treated to a unique fashion parade, curated by Laura Churchill. The collection from Australian women designers were beautifully modelled by staff and members of the Co.As.It community.

International Women’s Day is about celebrating women as well as focussing on equality for women. Speakers included Dina Ranieri who highlighted the inequalities that women in our society still experience, the Hon. Grace Grace spoke about the opportunities she has had because of her parents immigrating to Australia as well as the importance of women in public roles and on boards. Finally, Lady Mayoress, Nina Schrinner raised awareness about dementia which disproportionately effects women more than men (2 to 1).

Congratulations to Dina and the Co.As.It team for a wonderful event.

CEO Dina Ranieri and the History of Co.As.It Community Services

EVOLVING from a consular welfare committee in 1978, the Italian Welfare Association became Co.As.It. by 1986 and in the late 1990s, Community Services was added to the name to better reflect its broader multi-cultural and mainstream role. Today Co.As.It. Community Services employs 420 people supporting more than 5000 clients weekly with aged, disability, community support services and social connectivity.

Despite its dramatic growth, the organisation still retains its original “extended family relationship” model says CEO Dina Ranieri.

“Our culture is such that we welcome people in as a family member, and we look after clients like our own family. We create relationships with them and a sense of village is nurtured every time a new client comes on board -and they love it!”

Dina was 12 when she left Italy and arrived in Australia, with no language skills as she first started attending school. This experience helped to shape her core values, that being the importance of community and culture. As Dina says, “people stay if they like the culture and environment.”

When Dina joined the organisation as an Administrative Assistant in 1987, there were only five staff members and five Community Care Workers providing services to 10-15 clients, all of whom were Italian. At the time, Dina still had small children and was only able to work three days per week.

Soon after she was employed, the organisation became the first culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) organisation to attain aged care funding through the Home and Community Care (HACC) program.

This set Co.As.It Community Services on a path to rapid growth.

Dina’s role at that time involved “a bit of everything”- getting to know the ins and outs of every aspect of the organisation. Like many staff members, she has grown up with Co.As.It. Community Services.

“Many colleagues have been with the organisation for decades and staff turnover is low” she happily reports.

As Dina became more familiar and knowledgeable with the functions of the organisation, she was offered the role as Director in recognition of her skills and expertise. In 2018, when Co.As.It. became a company, she was appointed CEO.

The organisation has powered and grown under Dina’s stewardship, expanding both service provision, assets and presence within the industry.

Co.As.It Community Services have received recognition and won awards for high quality services and excellence in care. In 2021, they were presented with a distinguished Order of Merit Award from the Italian Government for services to the community.

“We all believe in the vision of the organisation and because more than 80% of our staff speak another language, we have the cultural and linguistic competency to excel in this area. We have since opened our arms to other new and established CALD communities.”

Co.As.It. Community Services has two divisions that Dina oversees on a daily basis.

The Italian Language Centre (ILC) promotes and teaches the Italian language and culture in primary and secondary schools Queensland-wide. The centre provides professional development opportunities, resources and support for teachers and over 24,000 students learning Italian.

The Community Services division delivers aged, disability and community care services in Southeast Queensland, from Bribie Island to Tweed heads. Based in Lutwyche, there has social activity and respite centres in Stafford, Brackenridge, Acacia Ridge, Cleveland and the Gold Coast.

Three of these facilities were proudly built using Co.As.It.’s reserves and fundraising capital- a massive achievement for an organisation that started with one office and no bathroom facilities.

Today all the centres offer themed-day activities, transport and meals for clients. Every centre operates five days a week with two activities offered each day that are “often the highlight of the week for the clients” says Dina.

There is also an activity group specially designed for people living with cognitive impairment, the Sunshine Group, which is an essential service for carers and those who attend.

“Co.As.It is providing services that are very much needed in the community. We are supporting families in a way you would in a village; extended families, that is our ethos”

Dina Ranieri

The newest facility Amici House at Bracken Ridge was refurbished entirely from its own funds to the cost of $1M and has been operational since mid-2021.

An array of classes and activities is offered through this centre including respite, Latin dance, art, technology, physiotherapy, podiatry, information sessions and social group meetings. This community hub also boasts a café offering tasty meals and snacks at an affordable price for clients and guests.

 

One of the most enjoyable activities is having children from Tumble Tots Kindergarten and Goodstart Early Learning Centre visit to share their day with clients. The intergenerational exchange between the two generations is extremely precious and rewarding- so much so that it’s not clear who enjoys the day more the children or the elders.

Co.As.It have evolved their services to meet the needs of their clients; to continue to support them on their life journey. “Italians migrated to Australia in large numbers, so they are the first to age in large numbers,” Dina says.

Services like the free ‘Stay Active Exercise Programs’ have been created, to encourage physical activity for older community members. This program is funded entirely by the organisation and started with a pilot study of 15 people. Now the program proudly boasts 6 weekly classes with over 120 participants in three different locations.

The organisation has cared for many clients for generations.

Including children who initially attended playgroups when they were young now attending as parents who have their own offspring and clients who previously attended Co.As.It social outings in the 80s now receiving social activity support, in Italian, as they have moved into aged care homes.

“The demographic has changed but we will always have the history with the Italian community, and Italian will always be part of us,” Dina says.

The sense of continuity and continued strong relationships with their clients are just like a village – the sense of which is loved by all clients regardless of their cultural heritage.