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A dream come true . . . Whalan Lodge manager Alice Washington-Jones has always wanted to run an aged-care facility. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

When children are asked what they want to be when they are older, they might say a zoo keeper, a truck driver, or a teacher.

But when Alice Washington-Jones was younger, running an aged care facility was the first thing on her list.

Proving that dreams do come true from time to time, Miss Washington-Jones started as the manager of Kurow’s Whalan Lodge in November.

‘‘It’s been a dream job since I can remember,’’ she said.

Originally from Kent, in Southeast England, Miss Washington-Jones spent a lot of time with her grandparents, Jeanne and Bunny Newman, when she was growing up.

She loved ‘‘running around and looking after them’’, and was saddened when they transitioned to aged care, and experienced elder abuse in what she described as ‘‘really bad’’ facilities.

‘‘It tore me to shreds.’’

It was her grandparents’ experiences that really inspired her to pursue a career in aged care.

Just as she endeavoured, she was now in a position to advocate for older people in vulnerable situations.

‘‘If I can make a difference in the smallest amount, I will.’’

She loved working directly with residents, especially in the rural environment of the Kurow resthome.

In a city, the services felt more clinical and less personal.

Many Whalan Lodge residents had lived in the area all their lives, and appreciated a ‘‘more homely environment’’.

Miss Washington-Jones moved to New Zealand with her mother, Juliet Gardner, when she was 9. They settled in Twizel 14 years ago.

She studied to become a registered nurse in Christchurch, before working at an 85-bed aged care facility, delivering residential and hospital-level care, then an 80-bed resthome, where she was sometimes the sole registered nurse on duty.

‘‘That really boosted my confidence.’’

Mrs Gardner and her husband, Tim, own the Kurow Medical Centre and Twizel’s Mackenzie Health Centre.

Miss Washington-Jones had planned to work as a practice nurse for her mother and step father, but when the Whalan Lodge job came up, her plans changed.

Although there were only 12 residents at Whalan Lodge, significantly fewer than the other facilities she had worked at, Miss Washington-Jones said she had a big task ahead of her as manager. And there were big changes coming this year, as the lodge would undergo an expansion to accommodate an additional eight beds.

‘‘It’s quite a role to fit into.’’

But she had plenty of mentors to help her along the way.