Listening to the bird songs at home

Elmar. (Pictures: Supplied)

Watching the birds build a nest in a pot plant on the back verandah, admiring the flowers in the garden and listening to classical music in the comfort of their home in Melbourne’s north.

These are some of the simple pleasures that make life so happy and peaceful for Pam and Elmar Himmelreich, who are delighted to be living together in their cherished home of the past 45 years, thanks to a home care package through Uniting AgeWell.

And now with restrictions lifted, they’re looking forward to having lunch with their lifelong friends in their Preston neighbourhood, as well as catching up with their family – including their eight grandsons and one granddaughter.

Latvian-born retired maths teacher Elmar, 82, lives with CANVAS syndrome – a rare disorder that causes dizziness and affects balance, nerves and sight. Put simply, the late onset condition means if Elmar stands up he falls down, so he needs to be helped into his wheelchair.

Elmar’s home care package through not-for-profit aged care provider Uniting AgeWell, is for personal care, physiotherapy and a bit of help in the garden for Pam, 74.

“I’m happy sitting in the afternoon sun in the lounge and listening to the radio and classical music,” Elmar says. “There’s something so comforting about being in your own home.”

And Pam is happy too. “I’ve been watching these sweet baby birds in their nest in the pot plant – it’s just so lovely to hear them chirping away.”

In the meantime, the retired community worker does the shopping and also cooks, though she does enjoy having meals delivered through Uniting AgeWell every now and then.

Elmar is one of the thousands of clients receiving home care services through Uniting AgeWell across Victoria and Tasmania – many of whom are in Melbourne’s north and west.

Uniting AgeWell is now also delivering home care services to some 900 clients in the Brimbank council area as well as those in Hobson Bay and Maribyrnong.

Rohan Bond, Uniting AgeWell program manager West Metro Home Care says with 80 per cent of clients living alone, extra welfare checks and one-on-one visits are being done to ensure they’re OK.

Rohan says the upside is many people adjusted their home care packages to buy electric beds, mobility scooters and install ramps in their homes to enable them to live more independently during isolation. So now that things are getting back to normal, they’ll be able to continue living their easiest best lives possible.

Clients can also access Uniting AgeWell’s North West Metro Short-Term Restorative Care package – an early intervention program that aims to reverse and/or slow functional decline in older people and improve their wellbeing.

Rohan says the pandemic has taken its toll on family carers who reported being exhausted, with a growing need for respite.

Uniting AgeWell provides respite in the home as well as centre-based respite. All Uniting AgeWell residential communities are offering respite stays, with a special package offering a three week stay for the price of two.

It’s also useful for those recovering from a hospital procedure who need extra care before returning home. The facilities all offer 24-hour clinical and dementia care.

For inquiries about Uniting AgeWell home care services, residential care and respite stays please phone 1300 783 435 or visit