A brief description of my household
Mum moved into my house in June 2017. It was her choice; one morning she told me that she’s packed my car and is going home with me. I was surprised and pleased.
My house is a melting pot of people of different religions, races and ages. At the moment seven people live in the house. They include mum, my eldest son, his girlfriend, my younger son, and two tenants. And there’s myself.
We come from a variety of countries. My 96 year old mother, a Holocaust survivor, was born in Poland, lived in Germany and France, and migrated to Australia in 1949. My eldest son (41) was born in Australia, but lived in Israel for twenty years. His girlfriend (31) is from Vietnam and has been here for two years. I have one tenants (31) from Iran and the second tenant (18) is from Indonesia/Italy. My youngest son (32) was born in Israel and was 12 when we moved back to Australia.
I (Jane) am an artist and teacher. I am 64 years old, born in Melbourne, a mother of four, and grandmother of five. I moved to Israel in 1982 with my husband and two young children. We returned to Australia eighteen years later because I wanted to spend time with my ageing parents.
My house consists of five bedrooms and a converted garage. We have a large front and back garden full of small fruit trees as well as a large vegetable garden, bee hives, and many cosy areas to relax in.
It has always been my wish, from a young age, that my parents stay with me once they are too old to live by themselves. I am pleased that my mother now lives with me and I can care for her in a heart-felt way. I can greet her first thing in the morning with a smile. I can check whether she's had her medication. I can ask her how she slept, and then leave her peacefully to eat her porridge. I remind her to wash the dishes and put them away. I find small jobs for her when she asks ‘What should I do now?’. There is washing to fold, the floor to sweep, and clothes to mend.
She is thrilled to be of use in anyway, and is always looking for more jobs to do around the house so that she can lighten my load. In her mind, as long as she feels useful, life is worth living.
As for caring for the aged, I think my household set-up is humane and normalising. Mum is surrounded by a diverse group of young people who all watch out for her in some way or another.
Living in a share-house makes my life easier, less stressed and more fulfilled. My ageing mother is surrounded by a community of caring people, which takes a lot of the pressure off me.
My son's girlfriend is always kind, thoughtful and helpful, as she understands how it works in her own country, when a parent or grandparent is old and needs sensitive and loving care. I feel that today, in Australia, we are no longer expected to look after our old. Instead, old people are looked upon as a burden and are more often than not sent to an Aged Care facility.
The housemates are from traditional cultures and love the fact that my mother lives with us. They say it reminds them of their own home which they miss, where their own grandparents live with their family. Mum’s presence adds a sense of belonging and warmth to their lives. The housemates treat her kindly, and it is a common sight to see her hanging around, waiting for some tasty tidbits while they cook. There are those who are intrigued by the fact that she is a Holocaust survivor, something they barely had heard of before joining the household. And vice-versa, my mother is never alone. She feels safe with everyone, and treats them like her own family.
My house is a microcosm of what I’d like to see in the world; people of diverse backgrounds, religions, ideologies and ages living together and helping to create a shared environment where harmony, connection and warmth prevail. I realise this sounds corny and unrealistic in the big world, but it is possible in my little world.