EACH Housing held the Grand Opening of an innovative two unit disability housing development in Officer on 22nd February 2017.
The accommodation houses two adults with a physical disability, providing independent living for people who may be currently living with ageing parents or at inappropriate accommodation such as aged care facilities.
The project has been built on a model of independent yet cooperative living with the provision of supportive technology and carer support. It incorporates environmentally sustainable design and the latest in supportive technology including automated doors to apartments and balconies and tablet technology for important operations such as controlling heating, blinds and lights, allowing residents greater mobility and independence.
The two homes are designed for the residents to live independently of each other, whilst providing a single entrance and 24 hour care support with a separate carer’s quarter. Doors and corridors allow wheelchair access, ramps replace stairs for maximum mobility and kitchen, toilets, bathroom and laundry features allow self-management of everyday tasks and personal needs. Each unit contains two bedrooms to cater for overnight visitors, encouraging residents to remain connected to family members and networks. The homes look like any other on the street and will connect residents to their local community.
The land for this project was donated by EACH and largely funded by a grant from the Australian Federal Government through the Supported Accommodation Innovation Fund. On-site support will be coordinated by ADAM Inc. (Ability Dignity Access Management inc.).
ADAM Inc. is a community-based organisation that supports and works closely with people with disabilities to live independent lives. Adam Inc’s focus is on working with individuals with individual planning and providing necessary support staff and/or equipment.
Statistics show that not only are there close to 6,500 young people with disabilities living inappropriately in aged care facilities but there are over 80,000 ageing parents struggling with the constant worry about who will support and care for their children when they no longer can.
EACH Housing and ADAM Inc. are committed to providing living concepts that will enable people with disabilities to live an age-appropriate and independent lifestyle. Facilitated living design, such as is embedded in the Officer project, unlocks capabilities for independence not previously realised by individuals with a disability and create new opportunities for community involvement. Subsequently, parents and other family members, who may have had to provide continuous care, can also explore new opportunities such as study, employment or recreation. This is a far cry from the experience of many ageing parents and people with disabilities currently.
For more information on this initiative, please contact Sherri Makepeace on 03 87201183 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tenants of the accommodation, Julia and Kira have answered some questions below around having the opportunity to live in the innovative housing:
What were your living arrangements prior to this development?
Julia: I have lived with and been supported by my parents all of my life.
Kira: Currently my living arrangements are like most peoples with disabilities who don’t have the opportunity to live independent, living at home with my parents has been my only option. Due to my aging mother and lack of funds from the government, my living arrangement at home was becoming quite critical due to my mother’s deteriorating health. I only had the basic modifications to my house for my basic needs.
Where did you see your living arrangements for your future, prior to the development?
Julia: I have been becoming increasingly worried about my future as my parents age. My Dad, who does most of my personal care, turned 70 last year and while he is fit and healthy the reality is that it is only going be a matter of time before he can’t look after me. Also my parents deserve to be able to do what they want and enjoy life more. Before this opportunity I wasn’t confident I would be funded to live independently in the family home. And I’m terrified of being placed in a nursing home or residential group house with strangers. I currently lead a busy, socially active and happy life. If I am put into care I fear losing everything I love doing. I don’t think I would feel safe in those environments. This innovative development supports me to continue to live my life the way I have been, perhaps even better and more independently than before.
Kira: I always had dreams of living independently, the dream of winning the lottery and building myself a purpose built house to live by myself but never believed it’d actually happen. I used to plan out ideas of living independently but there were always road blocks that either wouldn’t work, or departments that wouldn’t allow the complete individual lifestyle that meant living by myself.
Ultimately, I always had the ambitions to live independently but believed it was all a pipe dream.
How do you envisage living independently will change your life?
Julia: Living independently I think will give me the chance to do more and have more control over my life. I’m hoping it means more flexibility, for instance going to the toilet whenever I need to rather than on a fixed schedule. It’s the little things most people wouldn’t probably think about that I’m really looking forward to most, like doing my own grocery shopping and meal planning, choosing furniture/appliances etc and where things should be put, not having to listen to mum’s choice of talk radio station all day every day, doing what I want when I want.
Kira: As I’ve always been brought up to expect what opportunities able-bodies people have, I believe by moving out, I’ll learn what every other individual will earn when they become independent.
Learning responsibilities of bills and daily living, having the option to enjoy my own space, allow my parents to live their own life without having to take care of me and just the greater part of being able to finally plan my life the way I want without limitations of other people to rely on.
What goals/plans do you have for yourself now that you have a new home
Julia: This came up rather unexpectedly and suddenly for me so I haven’t really thought about goals. So far it’s been all about figuring it out if it would work for me, what I’d need and making the decision. For me this opportunity means being able to continue working on the projects I’m involved in, going out with friends, seeing exhibitions and shows, playing games and consuming too much TV. To do so more independently will be amazing. And to do it without the fear of uncertainty about what happens to me if something happens to my parents or worry about ending up in a nursing home is a huge relief. I’m definitely planning on having friends over more and living the life that I enjoy and makes me happy.
Kira: My first goal is to create my apartment the way I like, make my own personal touch to make it my home. Due to the houses location, plans for my future will be more available and accessible than ever. To work from home and reconnect with family and friends while living a normal life, I believe my options will be limitless.
What do you think of your new home? Does it meet your expectations?
Julia: It’s lovely! I didn’t get to see it before I was the successful candidate, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. At first there were a few things I wasn’t too sure about, but a second walk through helped a lot. I am a bit sad all the nice big walls that would be perfect for book cases have heaters on them, but I have ideas where else to put them. I’m excited about the smart house aspect where I can open my front door, blinds and turn the heating and cooling on or off remotely, all of which I’ve not been able to do before. The location is so fantastic, not far from a lot of my current support system and I really like the idea of being able to walk to the local shopping centre just a few minutes away for groceries or a haircut or a bite to eat.
Kira: During the years of being in communication with EACH housing and this project, EACH and I have been able to collaborate together in achieving the best outcome that meets my and other people on my levels, need and abilities.
The team at EACH and the building team have been amazing with getting this project to the final stage. They have all done an amazing job to provide the opportunity for me with all the modifications that meet my needs.
Do you have any advice for people with disabilities that may wish to live independently in the future? (perhaps worried about their ability, family response etc)
Julia: Things are changing, and more innovative options are surfacing all the time. It’s an exciting time and so good to see a move away from traditional and inappropriate care. It is a big decision so take your time and make sure it’s right for you. Ask as many questions as you need and keep asking until you get answers. I’ve wished to move out on my own for as long as I can remember but I still found this a huge and stressful decision. Everyone is so excited for me, so I let them bring the excitement when I was too stressed and unsure. There were a few times when I thought there was no way I could do it because it was going to be too much change all at once, it was overwhelming and I almost said no. There’s so much to consider and get your head around, you need to think about doing things in a completely different way. So give your mind time and space to think things through. And it’s ok to be scared. In the end though you’re not going to know if it works until you live it, so you have to take a leap of faith.
Kira: I truly believe everyone should have the dream of living independently but many think it’s too hard or impossible. From my point of view, it’s going to be a rough journey but the end result will be something that everyone deserves the opportunity to have. There will always be a sense of complacency with your current situation, be it living at home or somewhere else that doesn’t provide you your full independence. You must think, is this all I expect out of life? If you want it, there are supports, companies, family and friends who will have and want your goals and dreams of living independently and they will help you achieve them.
You may have to fight and work a little harder to achieving your dream, but it’s all possible, especially with companies like EACH Housing who want to provide these opportunities to see the gap between mainstream society and people with disabilities living together.
What would you say to the Funding Body of these types of Developments if you had a chance to speak with them?
Julia: Please green light more! And keep thinking outside the box. We just want to live ordinary lives like everyone else, which means being supported to live independently where we have control and choice. For too long housing and care for disabled people have allowed us to not do much more than exist, we should be supported to live the best lives possible. I realise how lucky I am to have lived a full and good life so far, many people have not been as fortunate. Everyone has different needs and preferences so developments should be as varied. For me a place with two individual units where I still have my privacy and own space, with some shared care to keep costs down is perfect, but might not be for everyone. But please work with support funding bodies so that funding is ready and available for anyone offered a place in these developments, because there is nothing worse than being given a life changing opportunity like this then being told there is no money to provide any more support than you already have (which isn’t anywhere near enough to live there).
Kira: All I have to say is, these projects are a once in a life time opportunity for myself. All the work that has gone into this project was no straight forward process but I hope for the future, similar projects will hopefully change the view of people with disabilities. Like myself, I hope that these opportunities won’t be a once in a lifetime, instead be the same option as able-bodies people have when they leave home to start their own life as an independent person.