Five years ago, when she was in her early 20s and studying counselling, Emma Flockhart did an internship with SCS and became a volunteer visitor to John Tritton who was then a resident of social housing at Blandville Court, Gladesville. At the time Emma was living with her aunt and grandmother who wasn’t physically active but happily greeted many visitors – and Emma could see the multiple benefits of great social connections.
“I knew that if I get to that age and didn’t have friends around, I would love to have a yarn with someone. I am the only person who sees John apart from his carers and I’m mindful that I need to sort my life around visiting him. So I’ve always said to employers that I can’t work Tuesdays because I see John.”
John Tritton had worked in grounds maintenance and Emma thought they might enjoy growing something together. When they had fish-n-chips with lemon wedges with seeds, Emma suggested they start a balcony garden with a lemon tree. Flowers, strawberries and tomatoes followed.
“When I visited Blandville Court, John would say, ‘Go and see our children, Emma,’ referring to our plants.”
Late last year and earlier this year John was in respite and hospital; Emma worked hard to track him down to visit him. Glaucoma has largely blinded John and he’s had a leg amputated so he has moved to St Anne’s nursing home at Hunters Hill. Now that John is in care, Emma continues to visit him as part of the SCS Community Visitors Scheme, which provides friendship and companionship by matching socially isolated aged-care recipients with volunteer visitors.
“We’ll just have to work out how to look after some low-care greenery in his room,” says Emma. “When you build a relationship with a much older client, in a way they become a pseudo-grandparent. So you make a commitment to the person because you value the person over the visiting program: John is part of my life and routine. Thinking of a situation where I couldn’t get out of a room without assistance helped me remember the importance of bringing joy to other people. And I feel good when I visit John and afterwards.”