Summerhill Home Aberdeen - Fifty Years Of Care For God’s Elderly People
In the early 1960s Mr. Alex Ross had the desire to see a residential home established in Aberdeen, for elderly saints who were in assembly fellowship. After discussing his hope with brethren from local assemblies and, after much prayerful consideration, a committee was set up to examine the options available. A fund of approximately £3,200 was lodged and the assemblies in the area notified of the course and progress of the intended development.
It was decided that a new build would be preferred to the purchase of an existing building, and in 1963 a piece of land became available on Summerhill Road (the present site) and was given by the City of Aberdeen Land Association free of charge! After consultation with several building firms, an estimated cost of £13,000 was agreed, although the brethren were desirous of having 75% of this amount to hand before the work began. They looked to the Lord to provide the remainder of the cost through the exercise of assemblies and individuals.
The architectural and planning expertise of Mr. John McRobert was sought, plans approved by the Local Authority, and building commenced in July 1964. The initial capacity was for twelve residents with accommodation for a matron or superintendent.
Another important decision to be made was the setting up of a constitution. This was done and the initial intent was that potential residents were to be believers and, preferably, in fellowship in local assemblies, in keeping with the ethos and guidelines of those who had the initial desire for such an enterprise. Over the years some flexibility has been allowed to enable some from other church fellowships to be cared for at the home also. This has helped to ensure full capacity of the home and enabled the trustees to respond to specific identified needs.
After steady progress and a few difficulties, the home opened officially on 30th July, 1965. Mr. and Mrs. William Dunbar were employed as handyman and matron respectively, and accommodation also provided for their son Alan.
Miss Jessie Middleton, Holburn Gospel Hall, was admitted as the first resident, the initial charge being £6 10s. 0d. (£6-50) per week!
Over the years, the number of elderly saints requiring care has increased steadily with applications received from the locality and areas further afield; this has necessitated improvements and extensions in the Home. Extra bedrooms, a second lounge, a new and extended dining room, kitchen improvements, en-suite showers, and a laundry room have been added as the needs have arisen. The Lord’s hand has been seen in all the changes, many gifts have been received, and the ongoing expenses met throughout.
As well as the physical care being provided, the spiritual welfare of the residents has been a priority. The assemblies in and around Aberdeen have provided support in many ways over these fifty years and have not only committed to providing financial support as needed but many of the local saints have given of their time in a variety of ways, whether to conduct short services, give morning talks or simply to spend time chatting, reading to or singing with the residents – one sister for example attended every Friday afternoon for twenty-five years to help the residents enjoy singing their favourite hymns All of this provides encouragement to those who are unable to get out to the regular assembly meetings.
Staff, with help from relatives and visitors, provide other interests regularly; residents may be taken on outings by car or bus, such as a visit to Aberdeen beach, Hazlehead Park, Stonehaven, Banchory, and other venues with the ever popular garden centres, coffee shops and restaurants enjoyed by all. Crafts, quizzes, puzzles, exercise sessions and other activities also help to stimulate some interest within the Home for those unable to get out. The staff, Trustees and Management Committee greatly appreciate the willingness of all those who give time and effort to participate in these activities.
Inevitably, many changes have taken place in the fifty years since the Home was opened. The number of residents has varied, capacity increasing to twenty-seven then decreasing to twenty-two after some en-suite showers were added. The present capacity is twenty-one with one respite room. In excess of 300 believers have been cared for, some for a short time, some for a period of respite care, others for many years. Staff have changed, as have the Officers in Charge, but the principles and aims have been maintained and those being looked after have benefited from the care given and enjoyed the comfort and fellowship of like-minded Christians.
Throughout the years, the Lord’s guidance in so many ways has been recognized and acknowledged. Without His provision, Summerhill would have been unable to continue as it has until now.
It should be mentioned that Mr. Alex Ross, whose original ambition saw the establishment of the Home, and who gave valuable service as a Trustee and Management Committee Member until 1985, became resident with his wife Olive in 1991, and although Mrs. Ross died a year later, he remained in residence until his death in 1997, aged 93.
In the early years, those applying for accommodation could be accepted with no approval being necessary from Local Government. Many were relatively physically fit, requiring little or no special care, one resident was still driving her car for some considerable time during her stay!
Government policies in relation to ‘Care of the Elderly’ have now changed; supplementary funding is given and individuals may be admitted only after assessment by the Local Authority determines that they can no longer be cared for in their own home because of increasing frailty, or health problems.
As a result, those being admitted now are more frail, have a greater degree of dependence, and require a higher level of support with personal care. This places an extra burden on staff who provide the attention necessary for the welfare and comfort of each resident. The standard of care remains high and carers, kitchen staff, domestic/laundry workers and administrators can all be commended for the part they play in maintaining it.
The Trustees and the Management Committee continue to pray that the work, in the Lord’s goodness, will be able to continue, maintaining this admirable standard of care, and that those requiring support in their latter years may benefit from being looked after in a Christian environment. Please pray with us that the Management and Trustees will be given the necessary wisdom and help as they seek to maintain the facility and that the staff may be encouraged as they care for these elderly saints.
For further information please contact:-
Aberdeen, AB15 6HU.
Telephone: 01224 319531
Information for this article has been provided by Mrs. Esme Wilkie of Aberdeen as a result of research on some historic and original documentation.