Curtain falls on Kenwyn

2019-07-08 15:56
Brian Servant, one of just three remaining residents, with employees Antoinette Olivier and Petro Fourie in the lounge, which used to be filled with residents chatting.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

Brian Servant, one of just three remaining residents, with employees Antoinette Olivier and Petro Fourie in the lounge, which used to be filled with residents chatting.PHOTO: Moeketsi Mamane

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The lounge is empty, the bar is closed, and the corridors of Kenwyn are silent, as the last three remaining residents wait for the sale of the retirement home to be sealed.

Residents have been moved to other retirement villages across the city following the announcement of the sale in April.

The home falls under the Pietermaritzburg & District Council for the Care of the Aged (Padca).

Its chairperson, Peter Miller, has said that Kenwyn’s occupancy was affected by the murder of 92-year-old resident Patricia O’Connor in her room last July, among other things.

O’Connor, a frail woman who weighed 42 kg, was one of three elderly people killed at old age homes on Pietermaritz Street last year by Kershwin Goldstone, who is now in jail for the murders.

Miller said prospective residents were turning away because the home was in a “terrible area” spoiled by filth and crime.

Speaking to The Witness last week, Miller said the move and the sale were going well, but it was disappointing that the building had to be sold in the first place.

“The city is a disgrace. As a former employee of government, I say the city is turning into a complete slum. It is appalling.

“When you cannot even manage a taxi rank, how can you run a city. People are leaving in droves across the city because things are so hopeless.”

Miller had said at the time O’Connor’s murder meant they had to double security which would include drastically increased fees, which the residents would not be able to afford.

Residents were paying between R5 500 and R9 000 per month to live at Kenwyn, which had 64 flats.

When The Witness visited the home, empty armchairs in the lounge area and stacks of magazines and books bore testimony to what was once a residence filled with passion to care for the elderly.

A bar area, where many celebratory and memorable moments were shared, had also shut its doors.

Sitting alone in the lounge area was Brian Servant, one of the three residents remaining at the home.

The 87-year-old retired architect has been staying at the home for three years. “I’m very sad,” he told The Witness. “I have enjoyed my stay here. It’s very sad to see a place getting fewer and fewer residents as they leave and go elsewhere. During the day I just sit here alone and talk to my shadow,” he joked.

Servant, who shared that he had designed Linpark High School, said during his stay at Kenwyn, he had formed many friendships.

“For now, I just sit alone and meditate while waiting for meals. The highlight of my lonesome days here are the meals,” he laughed.

He said while he did not know where he was going next, he had already applied for residency at two other homes in the city.

Kenwyn manager Petro Fourie said the employees had also been left devastated by the turn of events. “It is very sad that a place like this has to close down due to the economic climate.”

She has worked at the home for nine years. “We’ve had very nice residents who became family. When we had to say goodbye as they moved out a lot of tears were shed.”

Recalling some of the memories with the residents, Fourie said: “When Kenwyn turned 21 we had a bash and it was absolutely nice. We had good times here. I had my 50th here and my daughter’s 21st birthday was also held here.”

She said the “Blue Room” was a favourite feature in the home where all the church and memorial services and parties were held.

Ghostly tales had also become part of Fourie’s memories.

“I remember one night walking a resident to her room at bedtime. She just stopped at this chair and started talking to it. When I asked her who she was talking to, she said she was talking to a lovely lady who sits on her bed every night and chats to her,” she laughed.

“It’s memories like that that we will miss.”

Fourie said the residents had been assisted by Padca’s social workers in getting new accommodation.

Kenwyn’s 10 staff members would either be absorbed back into Padca or be given severance packages.

Antoinette Olivier, one of Kenwyn’s longest serving employees, said she too would miss the residents.

“I’ll miss their characters, their love and their care towards all the staff members.”

Olivier said it was a pity that residents at Kenwyn had lately been living in fear. “When we first came here, we didn’t have to worry about crime. I would always leave my doors open and we didn’t have any security. Suddenly, it started becoming dangerous and the crime and grime escalated.”

Msunduzi was sent questions on Wednesday and Thursday last week asking what it made of the reasons for the home’s closure but did not respond.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kenwyn retirement home

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