Jenny and Trevor Dawson
Jenny and Trevor Dawson were recently featured in The West Australian's West Weekend Magazine. Click here to read the article in full.
Almost three years ago, Jenny and Trevor Dawson were like many baby boomer-age retirees. Their half-acre Australian dream family home in the Perth Hills was starting to seem a little too big with their two sons grown up and left home. The gardening was starting to become an increasingly burdensome chore.
They decided that moving into a retirement village was their best option, and when they started exploring their options they knew they had to act fast.
This is because both Jenny and Trevor are blind.
Jenny was born blind; doctors assuming a virus like rubella in utero to be the cause. Trevor was born prematurely, albeit with perfect vision, however he was exposed to excessive oxygen levels in a newborn incubator which blinded him from the age of three days old.
“To get around, we need to memorise our neighbourhood which takes time and quite a lot of effort,” Jenny said. “So we decided that we needed to move to a retirement village while we have the cognitive function and energy to settle in properly.”
The Dawson’s chose SwanCare Bentley Park, which is situated adjacent to Curtin University in Perth’s South East.
With many independent living homes and three care facilities on one site, SwanCare ticked all the boxes.
“We wanted somewhere that really didn’t require us to move again – ever.” Jenny explains. “We didn’t want to end up in a situation where one of us is in a care facility in one suburb and one of us stays independent in another suburb.
“At Bentley Park we know that, down the track, if one of us needs to go into care, we will only be a short walk away from each other.”
In mid-2015, the Dawson’s put their family home on the market and four months later, they had moved into their new retirement apartment at SwanCare Bentley Park.
They settled in and quickly become part of their new community.
Trevor is now a keen lawn bowls club member, while Jenny has become a valued member of the resident’s advisory committee, which provides a formal communication line between SwanCare’s management and residents.
Jenny and Trevor have also started a vision impaired support group, providing practical tips and encouragement to the elderly SwanCare residents who might be struggling and feeling isolated due to their failing eyesight. They have known another group member, Peter, for decades – he is also blind and lives around the corner from them at SwanCare Bentley Park.
“We really feel blessed to be living here,” Jenny said. “Everyone looks out for us but they don’t make a fuss, which is lovely.”
Trevor agrees. “It’s great to live in a place where you can access all the services,” Trevor said.
“Everything is here – there’s a grocery shop, a buggy service, beautiful meals, hairdresser, home care. You can also catch a bus to just about anywhere in Perth from within the village, which is great because we are always out and about.”
While Jenny and Trevor feel fortunate to have found their ideal retirement lifestyle, the wider SwanCare community feel fortunate to have Jenny and Trevor around.
“The Dawson’s bring so much to our community,” Graham Francis, SwanCare CEO, said. “As well as being friendly, familiar faces around the village, they have become our go-to consultants on how we can go about improving everyday life for our many vision-impaired residents.”
Improvements introduced have included providing the village newsletter as an audio file option, making the new SwanCare website accessible, and presenting the vision-impaired group with a hands-on architectural model of Bentley Park’s future leisure centre during the resident consultation process.
“It really is a whole new level of consideration when you start thinking about all the little things you can do to support those who are vision-impaired,” Graham said.
The positive energy that Jenny and Trevor bring to SwanCare comes from their positive, humble, and often humorous approach to life.
When asked what other retirement villages or aged care facilities can do to assist their vision-impaired residents, Jenny replies: “It’s the little things that make a big difference, like, when saying hello, say your name and identify yourself as a staff member.
“But above all, if you’re not sure, the best thing to do is simply ask how you can help.”
It seems that although Jenny and Trevor are grateful for the odd helping hand, mostly they go about unwittingly providing help to others by way of support, friendship, and a good belly laugh.
About Trevor and Jenny – a snapshot
Married for 34 years, they met through Trevor’s work as a switchboard operator and telephonist at the then Commercial Bank of Australia.
They went on to have two children who they are extremely proud of: Scott, an auto electrician and Chris, a Hercules aircraft pilot in the Australian Air Force.