Taking life in her stride

Mary Steer has crammed a whole lot of living in her life – and plans to do a whole heap more.

The 89-year-old has lived in her two-bedroom unit at Uniting AgeWell’s Strathdon Independent Retirement Living Village in Forest Hill for the past 10 years, and spends her days catching up with friends and family, looking after her beloved rescue cat Pammy Puss and knitting for her sixth great-grandchild whose ETA is imminent.

This lucky little baby will be wearing clothes made by an expert. Mary is a retired arts and crafts teacher who went to teachers college at the age of 43 – the same year as the oldest of her four sons started at university.

“I stayed at home when the kids were little, then followed my dream and became a teacher,” Mary explains. Although Mary was almost double the age of all the other students, bar one, at college, she took it all in her stride. As she has done with everything else in her life.

When she was 10 years old she was involved in a horrific bus accident, badly injuring both her legs. Her left leg was amputated when she was 26-years-old, and she was fitted with a prosthesis.

And how did she cope with little kids and learning to use an artificial leg?

“I just got on with it,” Mary laughs. “I had to!”

Mary and her late husband, Ian, were both previously married before they got together, and the result is a big happy blended family with seven children and a whole heap of grandchildren and great-grandchildren between them.

“His kids are my kids, mine are his – and although one of my sons is in Japan, we’re all a very close-knit family.”

Ian was an ordained minister in the Uniting Church and he and Mary served in a number of parishes before they retired at the village which houses 40 independent units, and currently has a few vacancies.

“I’ve moved house 20 times in my life,” Mary says. “I’m sick of it.” And the continuum of care, with Strathdon Community aged care residence and allied health and therapy centre on the same site, is one of the reasons she chose to move into the village. “I never have to do a big move again. If I need a bit of extra care, I’ll simply shift to the residential facility, it’s too easy! I’ve seen the care the staff give to residents, they’re wonderful!”

Mary does her own cooking, and still reckons nothing beats a roast. She also loves pottering around her garden and having friends all around her in the complex.

“I never feel lonely, there’s always someone to chat to,” she says. “The village is absolutely wonderful, management are very caring, nothing is too much trouble for them.”

Uniting AgeWell South East Housing officer Lee Martin says residents like Mary all have access to the array of services at the Strathdon residential facility – including the hair dressing salon, café, library, chapel, community hall, seniors gym and more.

The village also houses a communal garden, where residents grow veggies including strawberries and tomatoes.

“Residents live independently in the units and at the same time enjoy a sense of camaraderie and community with the others living there,” Lee says. “It’s great, and there’s a friendly atmosphere which contributes to a sense of togetherness and wellbeing.”

There are 20 Uniting AgeWell retirement living complexes across both Victoria and Tasmania offering a range of accommodation.

For further information on any of these lovely retirement living options call 1300 783 435 or visit

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