OUR SAY: Aged care Christmas display 'very special'

I WAS privileged last week to be asked to judge the Christmas decorations at New Auckland Place aged care facility.

It's one of those tasks where you wonder just what you've let yourself in for, and I must admit I was thinking exactly that way as I was driving along the Dawson Hwy.

That cynicism started to melt somewhat as I walked into the entrance foyer and I saw how much work had gone into creating something very special.

We judges, former state MP Liz Cunningham, Bunnings representative Jewel Ienna, regular visiting doctor Les Diefenbach and myself, were given special folders with score sheets for each of the areas we were to judge - and the next two or three hours, for me anyway, turned from mild cynicism into virtual awe as we made our way through the facility.

Diversional therapist Lindy Fry-Mitchell explained that residents and staff had spent the past six weeks or so preparing for this great day, which coincided with the family Christmas party.

Off we went. Obviously, first look was the entrance which had been recreated to depict the movie Nightmare Before Christmas. The effect was dark and the effort was second to none. A great start to a fascinating morning.

The Eden Room adjoining the entrance employed the theme celebrating Christmas in the 40s, and while I was a babe in my mother's arms towards the end of that decade, there were still a pile of items which brought back some special memories to me, including Dad sitting under the tree, fast asleep with a can of beer in his hand. (Don't think beer cans were around at that time, but the effect was still there). One of the favourite memories from the residents was killing the chook, plucking it and eating it for Christmas dinner.

A massive amount of effort had gone in to the transformation of the courtyard into a television set for a look at Home and Garden, complete with the gardener, the handyman creating Christmas trees from old pallets, the cook creating some fantastic Christmas treats, and the seamstress creating Christmas-themed quilts. The facility's garden in the courtyard had been judged runner-up in the recent garden competition.

Santa's workshop in the Curtis Wing was a real eye-opener with elves (residents) scurrying around, decorating and wrapping gifts, and the Scrooge-like paymaster watching over them to make sure they weren't slacking. One group of elves have spent the past few weeks gift wrapping presents for each of the facility's 128 residents - no mean task.

Residents created chaos in the Awoonga wing where it was wall-to-wall Christmas carols non-stop with residents and staff displaying their singing skills at the top of their voices.

And then it was the final area - the Boyne Wing where the message was the reason for the season - Christ's birth and all that meant to mankind. There were wise men, flocks of sheep, many dressed in the clothes of the era, and a running commentary of the Christmas story, with our favourite Christmas carols dotted throughout, again sung with gusto by residents and staff.

Then it was time for the judges to confer and come up with the results. Not an easy task as it was obvious massive amounts of thought and effort had gone into transforming the facility which would make everyone smile.

Results: Boyne's nativity scene collected this year's trophy, with Santa's workshop a close second, followed by the Home and Garden set. A special mention was made of the entrance also.

This is the fourth year the facility has embarked on such an ambitious task and, from what Liz Cunningham was telling me, each year has been better and better.

Isn't it wonderful to see people create something special to make others happy!