Sedgemeer Park Retirement Home as it is known today was originally built by JJW Muller, a magistrate from Oudtshoorn who retired to Sedgefield in 1928. In retirement he started a school at Ruigtevlei and taught there for a number of years.
In the early 50's he sold the house to the Watneys who bought it as an investment, but after her husband's death, Elaine moved into the house in town known then as Sandgate.
All her life in Sedgefield, Elaine was an active member of the community and besides her sizable contribution to the building of the public library, and the Sedgefield Community Church, her lasting legacy has been the Retirement Home.
Fred and Nona Hawkins, Nellie Downes and Margaret Blakeway had been searching for a property to house and care for the elderly in Sedgefield when Elaine in her 80's offered her home to them for a nominal price.
An Inaugural Meeting of the Sedgemeer Park Welfare Organisation for the Aged was held in the Community Church Hall on 19 September 1984. The steering committee was made up of Margaret Allen, Wally Bodmer, Fred Hawkins and Mike Loubser.
During the next 4 years, the Town Clerk, Reg Basson and Mr and Mrs Wilfred Vowles advised and guided the committee through many legal aspects and foreseeable pitfalls so that by October 1988 the required authorisations were relatively easily accomplished for the newly fledged organisation.
Nona and Fred Hawkins lived on the corner of Mossie and Flamingo streets. He was a retired Mathematics teacher and his wife, a retired English teacher. They were active Methodists and Fred was involved in the distribution of Gideon bibles. The Hawkins were in the fore-front of fund-raising in order to do the necessary upgrading of the electrical and plumbing aspects and house alterations that needed to be carried out to equip Sandgate for its new purpose.
By Open Day 30 November 1989 the Sedgemeer Park Committee held their first meeting in the dining-room of the main house and announced that the property belonged entirely to the Sedgemeer Park Welfare Organisation of which its residents were also members. Arther and Norah Hewitt moved into a bedsitter in the main house.
Initially Jannie and Rita Hers ran the Home and Jannie personally sponsored the building of the first individual units. His contribution prevented the home from being given back to Sedgefield and sold. On Thursday 1 February 1990, Fred Hawkins handed over the keys of cottage No 1 to Mr and Mrs Robbie Daniels. The building of two more cottages was underway.
In the 1990 Easter edition of Sedge News, the Sedgemeer Park committee advises that,
Grateful thanks were expressed to Rita Hers who supervised daily activities in the house such as the kitchen, diets, food purchases and staff concerns on a voluntary basis; Jan Hers who installed doors, fitted shelves, opened drains and supported Rita; Tom Berry who repaired the delapidated gate speedily; Arther Hewitt for professionally finishing off the painting of the sick room; AECI for supplying the paint; the Patchwork Guild for adopting the sick room and prettying it up; the Catholic ladies for help with collections and cake sales; Colin Halowell for a share of his horse manure sales; 2 wonderful Christian benefactors who supplied paint for the main house and a reclining chair for residents; Cherie and Alan Sindal who offered regular weekly trips to Knysna in their tour combi; Bob Kelly for his efficient work as Treasurer.
By 1993 the family house had 4 residents, one being Elaine Watney herself who had secured the right to live in the house for the rest of her life. It also housed the office and administrative section, a diningroom, lounge and cheerful sick-bay. The first 3 cottages were occupied and plans for more were on the way. Three qualified and experienced nursing sisters took care of the residents.
However, as the ‘90’s progressed a shortage of funds prevented the complex from being further developed or maintained and sadly it was reduced to a drab and over-grown corner property, an eyesore, albeit in a prime residential spot. Like its elderly residents it limped along trying to age with dignity. Elaine passed away in 1996 at the age of 96.
Sedgefield Christian Church with Pastor Noel Van Der Merwe at the helm had given spiritual support to the Sedgemeer's residents on almost a daily basis and various church members also helped in whatever way they could, and at one stage assisted with a loan to keep the home running.
Anton and Rita Kruger who had retired to Sedgefield at the end of 1994, were part of the Sedgefield Christian Church congregation and leadership which is how they found themselves getting involved in the running of Sedgemeer Park. Rita was appointed Home Supervisor in October 1999, and Anton was elected Chairman of the Executive Committee in September 2000.
This marked a turning point in the uncertain future of the retirement home. With
vision and determination Anton and Rita, backed by the committee, built 14 new accommodation units and added a much-needed dining hall called “The Elaine Watney Hall”.
Gradually the old house was renovated, the gardens redesigned and regularly tended. Paving was laid providing ample access and walkways around the house and units.
Sedgemeer Park became self-sufficient and thanks to careful management 28 residents were accommodated in 17 self-catering units and 8 rooms in the house.
In present times the units are serviced and all the residents have their washing done in the on-site laundry. Anton and Rita have a small team of cooks (the food is fresh every day and delicious!) laundry assistants, cleaners and a gardener they supervise.
The hub of the home is the kitchen where all the meals are made. All residents are required to eat the main midday meal in the dining room to ensure they receive at least one good cooked meal a day.
The large dining hall adequately copes with social activities like Bingo, Scrabble, weekly breathing and balance exercise classes, bible studies, a monthly communion service, special teas and other sundry events.
There’s a comfortable TV lounge where morning and afternoon tea is served.
A casual sitting room has a sizable table where puzzles and games can be enjoyed.
The Christmas lunch is a special event much looked forward to by everyone. Family and friends can share in the festive occasion and a great deal of work and organisation goes into making it a success. All the staff get to share in and enjoy the wonderful spread.
25 years on, Sedgemeer Park is still the only retirement home that Sedgefield has and many folks requiring such a facility have had to move away from the village to be accommodated elsewhere. Nonetheless, at present there are over 200 names on the waiting list.
To try and alleviate the growing need for elderly care, and after investigating many alternatives, the executive committee came up with the excellent idea of building above the dining hall.
Local plans were drawn up by Nicholas Beech of Le Plan and in a short space of time approved by the Knysna Municipality in March 2010. The project was given to Hayward Construction and completed in October 2010.
The centre was officially opened and blessed by Angie Pickard, minister of St Francis United Church at a ribbon cutting ceremony on 1 October. It will add a further 7 bed “care centre” to the existing house.
It was no small feat to have accomplished this in existing cash-strapped economy and it was due to the contribution of many local donors and not least the creation of the 5000 Club by Anton that brought in a good part of the necessary funding.
Sister Janet Pragnall, with her team of +/- 12 cheerful caregivers, energetically attend to all the nursing needs of the Sedgemeer Park residents. She controls and distributes everyone’s medication and her trained eye is alert to all her charges. From her office in the newly built upstairs Assisted Living unit she watches over the frailest who often require special attention.
Since Sister Ingrid Kok moved to Somerset West, so Sister Rosemary Cross now relieves Sister Janet.
My Dad had been growing frail both mentally and physically and was among the first residents moved into the new Assisted Care unit where I visited him nearly every day until he passed away peacefully in June 2012. He was 90 years old.
I can truthfully say that Sister Janet and her
caregivers are dedicated to providing a caring and comfortable
environment for everyone at Sedgemeer. I was grateful that my Dad was able to be in a homely place under constant supervision because his Senile Dementia made it almost impossible to look after him adequately myself.
Ideally situated at the corner of Flamingo and Kingfisher Drives, Sedgemeer Park is central to all of Sedgefield’s amenities. Elderly residents are able to walk to the shops, hairdressers, banks, dentists, doctors and pharmacy and enjoy strolls along the lagoon that is right on their doorstep. Several residents have lagoon views from their units.
Sedgemeer Park has come of age as a retirement home of good repute. At the same time it is unique in that it still feels like a home and not an institution. On any given day you will observe cheerful smiles and witness happy laughter. Visitors can see their loved ones at any time and there’s no standing on ceremony or having to phone first to get permission to visit.
In December 2010, Anton made an offer to purchase the property next door to Sedgemeer Park on Flamingo Street with the aim of extending the current facility by building some 10 new cottages. Although it was anticipated that building would commence mid-2012 various unforeseen requirements extended the time-frame.
Above: Sod-turning ceremony 26 September 2012 - 97 year old resident, Magriet watching Anton Kruger (Manager), Anton Jordaan (Attorney), Paul Engels and Nicholas Beech (Architects) and Danie Smit (Building Contractor) breaking the soil for the new development.
The 12 units were built in record time and by July 2013 even the gardens, paving, and gates were done and all the units were occupied by their eager new owners.
Sedgemeer Park receives no government grants and has no fundraisers apart from its annual Carols by Candle-light evening at Christmas held at the United Church.
As donations of any kind will be always be gratefully accepted, if you have a way to contribute, please contact Anton at: Sedgemeer Park on Tel: 044-343 1683.
The physical address is corner of Flamingo Road and Kingfisher Drive right at the circle that is straight down from the only traffic lights (on the N2) in Sedgefield.
Anton Kruger's notes
Sedge News articles 1989-1993.
"Declaration of Rights for the Elderly"
To add life to the years that have been added to life.
The following principles were approved by the United Nations’ General Assembly on 16th November 1991. Resolution 46/91.
Older persons should have access to adequate food, clothing and health care through the provision of income, family and community support and self-help.
Older persons should have the opportunity to work or have access to other income generating opportunities.
Older persons should be able to participate in determining when and at what pace withdrawal from the labour force takes place.
Older persons should have access to appropriate educational and training programmes.
Older persons should be able to live in environments that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing conditions.
Older persons should be able to reside at home for as long as possible.
Older persons should remain integrated in society, participate actively in the formulation and implementation of policies that directly affect their well-being and share their knowledge and skills with younger generations.
Older persons should be able to seek and develop opportunities for service to the community and serve as volunteers in positions appropriate to their interests and capabilities.
Older persons should be able to form movements or associations of older persons.
Older persons should benefit from family and community care and protection in accordance with each society’s system of cultural values.
Older persons should have access to health care to help them maintain or regain the optimum level of physical, mental and emotional well-being and to prevent or delay the onset of illness.
Older persons should have access to social and legal services to enhance their autonomy, protection and care.
Older persons should be able to utilise appropriate levels of institutionalised care providing protection, rehabilitation and social and mental stimulation in a humane and secure environment.
Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and quality of their lives.
Older persons should be able to pursue opportunities for the development of their potential.
Older persons should have access to the educational, cultural, spiritual and recreational resources of society.
Older persons should be able to live in dignity and security and be free from exploitation and physical and mental abuse.
Older persons should be treated fairly regardless of age, gender, racial or ethnic background, disability or other status and be valued independently of their economic contribution.
The Aged are valuable, treat them that way.
Sedgemeer with its Assisted Care Unit visible above the diningroom