International Women’s Day – Tickets On Sale Now

Co.As.It. Community Services “International Women’s Day” features the participation of Brisbane Fashion Month’s Laura Churchill – one of Brisbane’s leading stylists and fashion event producers.

Guests will enjoy a fabulous brunch with prosecco upon arrival, generously sponsored by Italiquore. Returning as emcee is the masterful Kim Skubris, an exceptional communicator and ambassador – a true powerhouse of personality.

Our International Women’s Day is our largest fundraising event in which all funds raised go toward our Dementia Support and Mind Wellness Program. The program is fully funded by Co.As.It. and offers counselling and support services to over 200 carers and those living with dementia.

More information here.

Ageing Well – Amici House

Co.As.It. Community Services

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 this episode, we talked to Cintia Paolino, Community Services Officer about the activities run at Amici House.

Listen to the episode here:

Amici House hosts its first Art Exhibition

Amici House Artist Posing in Front of His Artwork

Amici House hosted its first “Art Exhibition” on Friday, 16 December. The paintings were created by participants of the NDIS program and other community members with an interest in art. Hundreds of guests turned out for the exhibition to celebrate the clients’ artistic flair ahead of the Christmas holidays.

Art Class Teacher at Amici House; Ali Gillet, could not hide her happiness with the results, after only a short time in leading the art classes. “Art generates bravery and confidence in our students. It empowers them to make small decisions like what brush to use, how to correct colour, or how to see the colour or shapes needed,” Ali says.

Clinton Wade, an NDIS participant, had his artwork exposed at the event. For 2023, he says, the goal is to use a different painting style. “I’m just having fun and learning. I want to try different approaches, like charcoal on animal paintings,” he says.

Karen Petersen, also another participant artist, revealed that the classes are used as a time to relieve stress. “I have anxiety, and I feel calm and relaxed among friends during the art classes,” she says.

Co.As.It.’s CEO, Dina Ranieri, thanked Amici House staff and praised the importance of art classes held at Amici Community Hub.

“An exhibition like this highlights the work we do in the community, and allows us in bringing participants together to share the activity and form friendships. We know that art is an element that reduces stress and anxiety in many people, and all of those within this class gain much benefit and enjoy it.”

It was also a time to wish everyone the best wishes for the festive season as well as raffling of gifts and sharing of good food.

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.

Disability no barrier to Ian’s active life

IF there is an exemplar for getting older with attitude, it’s Ian Aitchison, who, despite his disability after becoming a paraplegic in his early 30s, leads such an active life that many a youngster would struggle to keep up.

At 76, Ian lives alone, runs his own business, drives and keeps himself so busy with his hobbies and interests that it seems age just doesn’t matter.

“I’ve always kept busy and active and healthy,” he says. “To be healthy you need a good diet and exercise.”

These days, Co.As.It. Community Services makes his life easier with fortnightly domestic assistance and physiotherapy for neck and back pain, but for the rest he looks after himself.

An action man from a young age, he was rock climbing near Boonah in 1979, when he fell and broke his lower back. After just three months in hospital and rehabilitation, he was on his way with a new course in life.

Ian still lives in the same house he bought in 1968, although the kitchen and bathroom were modified to cater for his disability.

His workshop at Milton, where he repaired BMW motorcycles and sold spares as well as lightweight camping equipment, was also repurposed and remains his business base.

Creating ability from disability

“The wheelchair I was supplied was hopeless. It weighed nearly 20kg and was so heavy I couldn’t lift it into the car. After talking to an engineering friend, I made a lightweight wheelchair,” he says.

This soon led to requests for him to make his lightweight model for others with a disability, as there wasn’t such a thing as a lightweight wheelchair in Australia when he began. Business rolled in.

“At first, I thought it was too much trouble but as I wasn’t a motorcyclist anymore, my business had fallen in a hole, so it was another direction. I’m still making them now,” he says.

Although they aren’t coming off his production line as quickly these days, he has plenty of return customers who are prepared to wait.

Ian designs and assembles the wheelchairs, although there are a few things he can’t do himself, such as the upholstery. His daughter comes in each week to help him with some of the physical things he can’t manage.

“Friends also give me a hand,” he says. “In exchange I do their watch and clock repairs.”

That’s one of his hobbies – antique watches in particular – and he can spend hours working on them.

Pushing the boundaries

In 1981, he took up wheelchair sport, and made his own racing chairs. His wheelie marathons took him around the world, but he had to give it up in 1995 as 42km was hard on his wrists.

To get around that, he built himself a hand cycle with a straight push-pull motion.

“If I had chosen to go shorter distances, I may not have worn out my wrists so quickly, but I am in very good health apart from that,” he says.  “I’m not as fit as I used to be but I still hand cycle five or six kilometres every weekend and have an exercise machine at work.”

His car is modified with hand controls, and he has never given up driving. It’s his independence.

And he continues to pursue his love of music. He plays the flute with a jazz outfit formed in 1997 called Musical Chairs and until recently, when his joints forced him to quit, with the Indooroopilly Chamber Orchestra.

He played the highland bagpipes in a pipe band as a teenager, but his disability brought that to a halt as it was a marching instrument.

“When I was 50, I decided to take up music again, so I learnt the Irish pipes, a folk instrument you can play sitting down but my shoulders and wrists are too bad now,” he says. “You need fine control on pressure on the bag and I can’t get that anymore, so I took up the flute.”

Help to stay healthy at home

Ian is modest about his achievements.

“If you’re not doing things there’s not much point in life,” he says.

All he needs to continue his active life is a little more assistance, but so far he hasn’t yet been able to secure a Level 1 Home Care package.

In some ways, he has become his own worst enemy as he is a bit too capable and when asked if he needs help washing himself, he declines and misses out completely.

“I live alone, that’s why I need some help,” he says. “The garden has always been difficult.”

With his strength and mobility declining he is grateful that Co.As.It Community Services is trying to help him get a Level 1 package.

“I have never asked for a wheelchair as I make my own, but I would like a little electric pod for the back of the wheelchair to help me up the driveway as I am a bit slower than I used to be,” Ian says. “I will just have to learn to answer the questions differently.”


Photo: Ian Aitchison runs his own business manufacturing lightweight wheelchairs.