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Making and cementing new friendships is part and parcel of moving into a retirement community.
They met sitting at the same table at Christmas and they clicked. “Yes,” says Mary, “That’s the word. Clicked.”
“We are together most of the day,” says Kay. “The only time we are apart is when we sleep.”
At Queenston Place, in Niagara Falls, they say Kay Cole is Mary Messina’s angel. Mary, 83, moved in three years ago when she was losing her eyesight. Giving up her home and making the transition was difficult. “And then I lost my sight completely. I said, ‘Dear God, give me the strength and I will make the most of it.’” He must have been listening. Because along came Kay, 87.
“We’re the odd couple,” says Mary. “She’s a stubborn English woman and I’m a stubborn Italian. Sometimes she’s a pain and sometimes she thinks I’m a pain in the rear end.” Kay: “It’s like being married.”
Mary loves buying sweaters and shoes, and when they go shopping, Kay helps her pick them out. When they play poker or bingo, she tells Mary what her cards are. “We have fun, sure we do,” says Kay. “But I never heard her say why she picked me,” says Mary, and they both laugh.
"Lots of friends"
“Ask Don!” everyone says. Advertisements for Queenston Place Retirement Residence in Niagara Falls even carry an “Ask Don” feature with the questions future residents are likely to ask.
There really is a “Don.” He’s Don Douglas, and the morning he met with our writer, he’d just come back, smart as a pin in his regimental blazer, from answering children’s Remembrance Day questions at a nearby school. There’s no better person for them to ask.
Don, 84, took part in the Normandy Landings, and has a medal to show he helped liberate the Netherlands. His dad was gassed at Vimy in World War I, and Don signed up for World War II service when he was 17.
Today he’s as much in demand as ever. He still has a drawer full of tools in his room and everyone comes to Don with their watches, and their electronic equipment, hoping he can fix them. He runs bingo games, paints pictures, walks a couple of miles a day and takes photographs of birds.
“It’s stupid being alone,” he says. “I have lots of friends.”
There’s one question, though, that Don loves hearing above all others. A wooden fish on his door announces his not-so-secret passion. Last summer a Dutch friend, Gerry, asked him, “Want to go fishing?” It was music to his ears. He’s hoping he’s asked again this year.
"The companionship of people my own age"
Marion Faulkner, 88, moved to Ontario from Nova Scotia on her husband’s retirement, taking care of him during his 10-year decline into Alzheimer disease. With her husband at Sunnybrook Medical Centre, she decided their condo building, filling up with young families, was not for her. “I needed the companionship of people my own age,” she says.
Marion lives to paint. So when she discovered that Glynnwood Retirement Residence had an art teacher who came in once a week, “that clinched it.”