The importance of family support

Seniors who stay involved in the lives of friends and family fare better than those who do not.

Terry Brown

Dorothy Coons, a pioneer in the field of Gerontology, once said that one of the most important components of the “milieu therapy” approach was the supportive role that families play in the lives of individuals living in seniors’ homes. Although those seniors have left their own homes and moved to live a communal life with other seniors, by continuing their involvement in their community, as well as  keeping ties with their family and friends, they have a more stable and meaningful life.

That is the case of Terry Brown and the support she gets from her family in her new stage of life.

Mrs. Brown, who was born in Ontario, and has been a long time citizen in our community, moved from an apartment to Abbeyfield almost a year ago. Her daughters, Cindy and Pam have been actively involved in their mother’s well being by paying regular visits to her; having day lunches in town, as well as carrying out other social endeavours together.

“We alternate to visit with mom,” says Cindy, her younger daughter who, like her sister, was born in Port Alberni and attended schools here. She has an oar business with her husband in the Hilliers area.

“We try to see mom every two weeks,” adds Pam, who has lived in Kildonan since 1977 and worked there as the post master for the past 35 years.

In her younger years, Mrs. Brown (nee Gravelle) used to practice various sports, such as ice skating and swimming.

“I also had a nice horse that I rode frequently, and during the winter months we had a dog sled to move us around,” she reminisces.

Mrs. Brown moved to Port Alberni in 1948 after visiting her sister and brother-in-law.

“I just came for a visit and, guess what,  I decided to stay!” she says with a big smile in her face. Once here, she met Lloyd Brown, a pulp mill worker, who became her husband for the next 61 years.

For many years, she worked at various places in this community including some hotels as a desk clerk, and at the Woodward’s Store on Third Avenue, where she was a sales clerk. Many people were employed by that big store those days. In fact, Cindy’s husband was also member of the staff.

“As a long time member of the Sunshine Club, mom went on trips to Alaska, South Africa, California, Australia, New Zealand, among others”, says Cindy.

“She also ran their MahJong Club for them.”

In 2010, the family suffered the loss of Mr. Brown, who had lived at Echo Village for a couple of years. After living alone for a few years, Terry and her family decided that a good place for her to move to would be Abbeyfield. “I was lonely at home and it was a good thing for me to come and live here. It was good because I get along well with others, and take part in activities such as bus trips to several places in town,” she declares.

“And she has a nice room, too!” adds Pam.

In addition to her active social life in Abbeyfield and the time she spends with her daughters, Mrs. Brown attends the day program at Fir Park Village every Wednesday.

“The HandiDart bus picks me up and takes me there every week and I enjoy my visits with other seniors while I take part in the programs they offer for us,” she comments.

“Actually, the program is for ladies only three times a week, but I attend the one day only, and I have been doing this for the past three years,” she adds.

Mrs. Brown is also a happy grandmother of four and a great grandmother of three. Pam’s two sons, both living in Port Alberni and Cindy, a son and a daughter (daughter lives in Nanaimo, son lives in Qualicum Beach but is now working in Saskatchewan).

She and her two daughters are indeed such a positive case of family interaction and support, which, as Mrs. Coons states, has  become another important tool for the enhancement of  her quality of life.

“It’s nice to see that mom continues enjoying life in her new home!” says Pam.