Tail-wagging in Wagga

A Maltese Shih Tzu is a popular visitor to The Forrest Centre in NSW.

An aged care volunteer and her four-legged companion are spreading smiles to seniors in a regional New South Wales aged care home.

Anne O’Connor and her Maltese Shih Tzu Ellie May are regular visitors at The Forrest Centre, an 80-bed not-for-profit residential care home located in Wagga Wagga.

Ellie May’s calming presence enables the pastoral care volunteer to quickly connect with residents. “She’s the best icebreaker. She’s really good for that, then they love to chat,” said Ms O’Connor.

Her association with The Forest Centre began when she would bring communion to the Catholic residents. Now, Ms O’Connor visits twice a week – one day with Ellie May and the second to assist with the hymn-singing for the Anglican church service.

“It absolutely fascinates me how some of the residents with dementia don’t know their own children but they know all the words to their favourite hymns,” she said.

Evan Robertson

Evan Robertson – chief executive officer at The Forrest Centre – said Ms O’Connor’s generosity with her time and spirit made such a difference to the day-to-day lives of residents.

“Her smile and her companionship are a real highlight of our pastoral program. Not to mention the two-in-one combo you get with Ellie May. I wish we had many more like Anne and Ellie. The value and service to our community from Anne’s contribution cannot be measured.”

Ellie May and aged care volunteer Anne O’Connor

This week – 20-26 May – is National Volunteer Week. Ms O’Connor is one of the almost 12,000 Australians who donate their time volunteering at aged care homes annually. She sees volunteering as a way to give back to a community where she has lived all her life.

“I’ve lived 67 years in Wagga. There are quite a few people that I’ve known who grew up in the area and it’s nice to go and have a chat with them,” said Ms O’Connor. “I enjoy talking to the oldies. They just love having someone to talk to … and, most of all, they want to see the dog.”

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