Ruth grew up in the South East of Melbourne during the late 1920s and lived a relatively quiet and sheltered life under the guidance of a governess, until her father’s work demanded that the family move closer to the city. So, in the 1930s Ruth, her two younger sisters and parents all moved to a suburb just east of Melbourne, and the once carefree life of scrambling to the end of the garden and straight out onto the beach with “just a book and bathers” would now be forever transformed.
Ruth’s teen years at a suburban school were constrained by the effects of war; limited supplies, gas mask training, siren drills, yet she beams as she recalls this time as “an extraordinary experience”. Undoubtedly, it was this incredibly positive outlook that drove Ruth to further her education by enrolling into University to study the Arts, in particular languages and philosophy – subject matter that would shape the way that Ruth continues to view the world to this day.
After raising two daughters and two sons, Ruth turned to volunteering work which included reading to people who were blind or had low vision, and lending her voice to audio books. It was during this time that her passion for music flourished (she is an accomplished piano player), as she met and worked with a blind musician who taught at the Melbourne State College.
Her volunteering also led her to be instrumental in the development of a pilot programme for Migrant Home Tutoring. The programme comprised a small group of women who were each assigned a migrant student that had very little knowledge of the English language. Usually the students were the wives of workers that had come to settle in Australia from overseas. Ruth recalls her first student: “She was a young Greek woman who lived in Box Hill. I would take her out and about and teach her how to read street signs, take her shopping and really just help her to become more confident in reading and speaking English” – an amazing grass-roots program that wouldn’t go amiss in current times.
Further volunteer work with the Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Program inspired Ruth to go back to University to gain a Master of Education Degree and a Graduate Diploma in Adult Education. This led to a paid role where she continued her pursuit to help Australians develop their literacy skills.
A busy work schedule didn’t interfere with Ruth’s true passion music education, however. In 2015, she was awarded Honorary Life Membership of U3A in Hawthorn, Victoria, in recognition of her role as founding Manager of the Orchestra of U3A Hawthorn in 1997 – a role that she continued for more than 20 years and 63 performances, retiring at the end of 2019.
As for her passions now? Well, Coronavirus isolation certainly isn’t keeping this nonagenarian down!
Ruth turns her hand to making things. “I love being able to create with my hands,” she says. “It’s wonderful to look around in the cupboards and find wool or scraps of materials and think, what shall I make today?”
She also spends hours on the computer researching and writing. She writes emails, letters, memories, and quickly mastered Zoom in mid-March just as the Coronavirus lockdown came into effect, so that she can continue to take part in U3A meetings and group sessions. Ruth also stays in touch with her children, her eight grand children and her seven great-grandchildren who are spread across the globe – one of her granddaughters is an air traffic controller in Dubai!
Of self-isolation, Ruth says that it has been a time for reflection and a time when things have been able to slow down for all of us. She feels that we have been able to really focus on things that are important, such as staying in touch with the family, taking more time to care for our health and wellbeing and considering the needs of our environment. She compares it to happy days in her past, when times were simpler, and there was a lot less stress.
This enigmatic newcomer to the Care Connect family says she chose Care Connect because, despite her age, she only needed a little bit of help and we were able to empower her to choose just how much or how little we were involved. “I’m looking to build this relationship and be prepared for other services that I may need in the future, and I know that I can control this in my own way with Care Connect supporting me.”
In addition to a small amount of in-home support, Care Connect helps Ruth to attend healthcare appointments that need to be delivered face-to-face, whilst her local supermarket has supported her throughout the lockdown with regular grocery deliveries.
One of the things that Ruth is really missing however is her hairdresser. “My hair has been growing and growing, I look down and I feel like I’m peering through a grey hedge,” she exclaims!
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How have you been keeping connected during COVID-19? We’d like to share more about what you love doing at home. You can send your photo and details to firstname.lastname@example.org.