A supermarket encounter was the catalyst for Gulf Rise village manager Jarrod Shearer’s career change.

How did you find yourself in this sector?
I spent my early career working in the Customer Service Agency of Dunedin City Council. It taught me the importance of being an enabler rather than an impediment. Moving into HR and training to become a mediator was the most pivotal training I’ve ever done, and definitely the best preparation for working in aged care. After university I began to reflect on what my values were and what was important to me. I watched an encounter in a supermarket where a woman got impatient with an older lady who was struggling with her coins and purse at the checkout. I thought, there’s actually a lot of good that I could bring to the lives of older people and I began looking at the retirement industry in more detail.

Why Gulf Rise?
The joy of coming to Gulf Rise was being told that this is a village for me to put my stamp on. I want to be part of working with our residents to create a village that people want to live in, and that others talk about as different in a positive and affirming way.

What do you enjoy about aged care?
No day is the same. Whether that’s something fabulous or an ‘oh my God’ moment, I can never predict! My role runs the gamut of listening to residents talk about their lives (a woman moving in soon was a crocodile hunter) to a day where there was too much water pressure while cleaning out drains, so every toilet spewed out fresh water. The more you try to structure your day the more it will go, ‘I’m not having it’! The other thing is being able to give some surety to the families of our residents that they are as supported as they want to be. I believe in enabling independence and I want people to live their lives, but the team and I are here to help if we’re needed.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
My mum, Sandra. At 72, she’s the queen of reinvention. She lives in a retirement village, works part time, became a clown for a couple of years, taught herself the banjo. She keeps doing something new. That’s the older person I want to be. Mum has a saying: There are two types of people in a retirement village – those who look at the fence and see only what’s inside, and those who look at the fence and say there’s a whole world out there.

How should we be looking after older people?
That experience in the supermarket taught me that you should never judge based just on what you see. We’re all going to age and we should think about how we want to be treated later in life. Waiting an extra 30 seconds in a checkout line is not the biggest deal as opposed to giving someone the courtesy of their life experience and letting them be.

A highlight?
The residents at my last village threw me a farewell party and one of them told me they had moved there because of me. It was such an emotional and impactful thing to say. One comment like that wipes away any drama or difficulties. It told me that day that I do make a difference, I am adding value, and this is the right place for me.

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