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Add your voice to the conversation

Time to Thrive

In Lyon, France in 2016 at the EAHSA Conference, Jo Boylan, Director Operations Southern Cross Care SA & NT and Stephen Cornelissen, Chief Executive Officer Mercy Health made a commitment to Margie Van Zyl Chapman, board member of Common Age and Chairperson of the South African Care Forum, to support the implementation of Gyms into two Aged Care homes in South Africa, Silwerkruin (Wellington, Western Cape) and St Antonine’s (KwaZulu Natal). This had been a wish from the residents at the homes for some time.  A wish to be healthier.

Both Southern Cross Care SA & NT and Mercy Health donated $15,000 each toward the gyms. In April 2017, gym equipment was selected for the two homes and purchased through a South African supplier.  The supplier delivered and installed the equipment ready for launching in August 2017.

In August 2017, Jo Boylan, with support from her husband Geof and friend Kate Saint ventured over to South Africa to implement the two gyms, provide two days of training at the homes and a further 2 full day workshops for key managers and leaders working in aged care across South Africa.  

The enthusiasm and excitement from residents and staff at both homes was overwhelming.   Jo, Geof and Kate were welcomed with beautiful singing from the residents and delicious foods from the South African cultures; Afrikaans and Zulu.

For many residents this was the first time they had used gym equipment. But this didn’t stop anyone from joining in. For some residents this was the first time they had walked in 15 years.

One resident who was known for her wandering, went missing one night and was found in the gym riding the bike, at 10.30pm!   She is now an avid gym junkie and her wandering is significantly reduced.

Aged Care leaders who attended the day workshops came from Johannesburg, Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town.

The Care forum workshops covered information about

  • healthy ageing and frailty prevention
  • the ageing population in South Africa and the rest of the world,
  • strategies to promote healthy ageing through early intervention, exercise and resistance training
  • preparing staff to support a more health promoting service.

Geof provided a deep understanding of neuroscience and psychology to build resilience in the workplace and Kate provided a comprehensive understanding of suicide prevention in older age.  

Jo went on to present in Montreux Switzerland at the 2017 Global Ageing Network Curaviva conference, sharing her experiences from South Africa. Sr Busi one of the catholic nuns supporting the St Antonine’s home received a scholarship to also attend the conference. She explained to others who were listening to Jo’s presentation, about the amazing gains from having the gym, that have been achieved for the residents living in St Antonine’s.

In summary, we will do more giving to those who are less fortunate than us…. like most forms of giving, it is the person who gives who gains the most!

“CommonAge is proud to be involved to assist and facilitate creating networks and affiliations through Commonwealth countries to enable each respective country to further their aged care deliveries and policies. Both Southern Cross SA/NT and Mercy Health are founding members of CommonAge and without their strong support, projects such as raising funds for gyms would not be possible. We thank both organisations for their strong engagement and involvement in making aged care a better place for the elderly throughout The Commonwealth.”

Klaus Zimmermann AM, CEO and Founding Director of Commonwealth Association for the Ageing


The SA Care Forum is pleased to report that at this time, further funds are being raised in Australia to reach out to another home in South Africa. And there are more opportunities being explored. Join the SACF and let us help your organisation tell your story and seek opportunities for global connections for you and your residents.