About three months ago, my 62-year-old mum made the very difficult decision to move to Wanganui (about six hours drive from us in Auckland). It was purely a financial decision, she was made redundant a year earlier. After selling her house she sunk a lot of the money into a health shop. Unfortunately it never really took off and she had to close down within a year. But with house prices (and rent) in Auckland being ridiculously high, she didn't have enough money to buy again in Auckland. So, she bought a house that she could afford in Wanganui (where houses are very affordable), and very bravely moved herself there (and, I'm please to say, she now loves it).
Over the year that she was running her health shop she made a lot of friends in the community, many of them folk that needed help with their health or wellbeing. One of them in particular, Mary, is an elderly lady who lives alone in a retirement unit not far from me. Mum would often take Mary shopping and to doctors' appointments and keep her company. Mary is also legally blind so having mum around to help her out was great for her. But of course, when mum moved away Mary felt quite bereft at not having her company.
Mum had made a few subtle suggestion to me that perhaps I could help Mary out and 'keep an eye on her'. But, knowing how much time mum spent with her (a lot!) I was a bit worried that I just wouldn't have the time - I never seem to have enough hours in the day as it is! But a few weeks ago Mum rang me and asked me to pop in and see Mary as she had some old glassware that needed to go to the charity shop. So Emily and I called in on her later that day. We stayed for a cuppa and a chat - Mary was delighted to be able to show us her garden, her cat and her recent bargains from the hospice shop!
I realised that it wasn't a big ask at all to spend a little time with someone who just needed company, and that in fact, I quite enjoyed it. I also learnt that poor old Mary had been having a rough time in the retirement village. Apparently some of the other residents have been bullying her - turning off her washing machine (which is in a communal laundry), tipping out her rubbish and making silly phone calls. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! It sounded more like a primary school than a retirement village! How utterly awful for someone who is in her '80s and can barely see. I dare say that this sort of thing happens in many retirement homes, and probably often gets dismissed by staff and carers.
Emily and I have made the decision to pop in and see Mary more regularly. She loves our company, even if it's only for an hour or so. I don't have any grandparents still alive, so it's quite nice for us to have her company too. And of course, she has some amazing stories about her childhood and about the war - it's wonderful for Emily to hear them, she is fascinated by how people lived a few generations ago. So I guess it's a win-win - we get just as much from her as she gets from us!