Never too old to make a difference

Rest home residents join to keep active, keep connected and fundraise for better mental health.
Found in: Stories

John Preston used to run marathons, but now at 88-years-old and recovering from a stroke, he counts 100 steps as an equally impressive feat. 

He relies on a wheeler for his mobility: “Some days are good, some days are not so good”.

But when the Oaks Resthome staff told John and their other residents about the ‘Step Together, Better Together’ fundraising campaign for Move For Mental Health, “it was the motivation I needed.” 

During Mental Health Awareness Week in September 2023 Oceania launched the ‘Step Together, Better Together’ campaign with the aim of residents and staff collectively walking 14,100 minutes – the amount of time it would take to walk from Oceania’s most northern village in Ruakākā, Northland to its most southern centre in Christchurch. 

It was a campaign designed to tick off two of the Five Ways to Wellbeing – Give/Tukua and Be Active/Me Kori Tonu.  

Julia Biggs, the Resident Experience Manager for Oceania, says the staff and residents were on board from the get-go. 

“I had done some loose maths, and tallied up that if each one of our sites raised $350 we could raise $20,000. Personally, I thought that was overly ambitious so in my own mind if we made it to $5000 I would have been happy – but to have smashed the $20,000 target has blown my socks off!” 

Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation

There was one key rule for the challenge – there had to be a minimum of two people walking together for the minutes to count because, as Julia explains, “we wanted them to connect with each other.” 

Connect/Me Whakawhanaunga – another of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Tick. 

John says he benefited from the connection with others, “We learnt a lot of things about each other, and I appreciated being out in the fresh air and being back in the real world again.” 

He also says he got the boost from knowing his and the other residents’ collective efforts would support the Mental Health Foundation. 

“For years mental health wasn’t recognised by the hospitals and the funding was shocking and now it’s coming out in the open and governments are quite interested in it, and it’s marvellous.” 

The ‘Step Together, Better Together’ campaign may be over, but it helped create new connections and new habits and John says he’s “trying like mad to keep up with the daily exercises classes which are very rewarding.” 

A huge mihi and thank you to everyone at Oceania – staff, residents and families – who took part in this very special Move For Mental Health campaign.  

If you’d like to reward their efforts, click below to donate.    

Mental Health Foundation