91-year-old Making Waves in Northern Beaches

on the Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Any swimmer who has returned to the pool after some time away can tell you how amazing it feels. But for Uniting resident Don Muir, it was simply a miracle as due to a degenerative health condition he never thought he could.

Just 10 years ago Don was the tenth fastest swimmer in the world…for his age group. Aged 81 he showed age is no boundary if you’re dedicated. Swimming was his ultimate passion and everyday he walked the six kilometres from his home in Frenches Forrest to the Warringah Aquatic centre, before training with the Warringah Masters.

Sadly in 2013 he was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a condition which stiffened his muscles until he was so rigid he could barely move by himself.

Losing his independence he moved into a Uniting aged care home and struggled to come to terms with the idea he would never swim again.

“He still continued to swim after the first couple of years of diagnosis,” explained Kellie Goodridge, his daughter.

“But slowly over the next two years it slowed him down and frustrated him and eventually he retired from the swim team. He was devastated and I really felt for him.”

Kellie wasn’t the only one with compassion for Don. The lifestyle coordinator at Uniting Mayflower Gerringong did too. In fact Margaret Darling wanted to help so much that she started researching to find a swimming pool with disabled facilities so they could get him in and out of the pool. Luckily she found somewhere and arranged the opportunity to return the now 91-year-old to the pool.

“Part of my role here is to truly get to know our residents and find out what I can do to make them happy,” explains Margaret.

“When I realised what a swimming champion Don was, I knew I had to find a way to get him back in the pool. It was an incredible day and he really loosened up and was able to move his legs a lot more freely than out of the water. I’ll definitely try to arrange it again.”

Kellie went along on the big day and was moved to tears as she watched her father return to his favourite hobby.

“It was lovely to see him doing what he loves best and great to see the support from Uniting. They sent a physiotherapist to solely look after him,” says Kellie.

“He has lost a lot of expression in his face but I can see past the condition and recognise a little smile.”

Far from being an extraordinary event, Uniting is drawing upon the latest thinking in aged care to ensure aged care residents are getting to fulfil their dreams and live active lives.

Over the next two years Uniting is transitioning all of its care homes to a Household Model approach which gives independence back to the residents. As well as choosing when to get up and have meals, residents can have a more tailored events plan, to what they are interested in – in this case, swimming.

All Uniting aged care homes are approved by the Australian Government to provide quality care services. In the 2016/17 financial year, Uniting provided aged care homes for nearly 8,000 residents, including approximately 2,500 people living with dementia.

Uniting offers a variety of living options to suit residents, from spacious private rooms with ensuites to shared rooms for those who enjoy company.