To celebrate Meals on Wheels Day, this week we had virtual coffee with Sharyn Broer, CEO Meals on Wheels SA and President, Meals on Wheels Australia.

She talked about delivering more than 10 million meals each year, getting out and about on the road and the opportunities she sees for aged care in the future. All over an almond milk chai latte.

Name: Sharyn Broer

What organisation/company do you work for? Meals on Wheels SA

What is your position? Chief Executive Officer, Meals on Wheels SA. Also voluntary President, Meals on Wheels Australia

What role does your organisation play within the aged care industry?

Meals on Wheels SA supports community independence and nourishment. Our primary service model comprises volunteers at our 83 branches across South Australia preparing and delivering a delicious, three-course meal at lunchtime, every weekday. Each year more than 10,000 individual service users receive welcomed nourishment, social connection and a check on their wellbeing through around one million meal deliveries.

We are part of a network of 592 independently run local non-profit service outlets that operate in virtually every Australian community. Collectively, Meals on Wheels Australia members provide frontline, early intervention and prevention in the home, which reduces the malnutrition risk faced by 1.2 million older Australians, and social isolation risk to one in four who live alone. This commitment is evidenced by:

  • 76,000 volunteers nationally who prepare and deliver 10 million meals a year to more than 120,000 older people across regional, rural and metropolitan Australia;
  • Addressing food insecurity by providing affordable, nutritionally targeted and safe food delivered to people’s homes or in community settings;
  • Conducting wellbeing checks and minimising loneliness and social isolation;
  • Promoting health and wellbeing of older people through nutrition and nutrition-related services.

Together, we deliver more than two thirds of meal services provided under the Commonwealth Home Support Program, and are a valued partner of many Home Care Packages.

What was your career background before this role?

My early career was spent as an occupational therapy clinician and case manager with Northern Domiciliary Care in Adelaide. This was a State Government agency, funded by Home and Community Care grants, where I supported people of all ages and abilities to successfully maintain roles, purpose and independence at home.

Concurrently, my husband and I ran a start-up retail business, developing my commercial management skills in parallel to my public service career.

My second career phase was as an allied health and community service manager with Domiciliary Care SA, then the largest provider of home and community care in the state. I relished the opportunity to develop self-funding commercial business units for allied health, personal care, and equipment and home modification services.

Then, I left Domiciliary Care SA after 20 years, having attained the role of acting Executive Director, for my current position at Meals on Wheels.

What made you choose a career in aged care?

As a student occupational therapist I discovered that I really like older people and I love community based care. Working at Domiciliary Care gave me the opportunity to have longer term interactions with consumers and see the impact that my clinical support and recommendations had on their ability to live independently within their own homes and communities. I also had lots of work variety and opportunities to lead group and centre-based rehabilitation programs, as well as deliver in-home care.

The connection between my personal purpose and aged community care made the transition to Meals on Wheels a natural and easy one.

What is your favourite part of the job?

My absolute favourite thing to do is to get out and about, visiting one of our volunteer-led branches and doing a meal delivery run. I’m inspired by the passion and care that our volunteers have for the essential work that they do, and the pleasure that our consumers have in receiving and eating a delicious, nourishing meal and having a friendly chat.

What opportunities do you see in the aged care industry?

This industry is going to keep growing, particularly home care. I’m looking forward to the final report from the Aged Care Royal Commission which promises to lay out a much improved approach to care of older Australians, especially for home care. I’d like to see more investment in preventive health strategies to support people to age well, particularly through eating well for the age that we are.

Do you have a pet project, or a goal you are working towards?

I’m passionate about ensuring equitable, affordable access to meal services for all older Australians. I have been working with my colleagues on the Meals on Wheels Australia Board to persuade the Government to address inequities created when legacy programs were rolled into the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. Minister Colbeck has advised us that a review is underway and we are looking forward to a swift and favourable result.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Take more risks!

Favorite movie, book or band (or all three)?

Book: The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)

Movie: Good Will Hunting

Band:   Dire Straits

What do you like to do when you are not working?

Sleep! I also read, walk in nature, spend time with my family and have recently been roped into playing Dungeons and Dragons for a bit of imaginative fun.

And finally, what’s your coffee order?

Almond milk chai latte

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