Maisie Riddle holds a flower-covered folder bearing her name on her lap.
Inside the front cover: a photo of the 95-year-old woman’s smiling face and a series of her personal stories as compiled by Abbey and Braeden Timms, two Reynolds secondary school students who began volunteer at Abbeyfield St. Peter’s House last March.
“What nice presentation and you two worked so well together,” says Riddle, a resident of Abbeyfield, a non-profit facility aimed at low-income seniors. “I found it so easy to talk to you. I didn’t know when to shut up.”
Across from Riddle sits Abbey, 15 and Braeden, 17, along with their 10-year-old sister Katie, who began volunteering at the house this winter after their mother Tammy Timms read a story in the Saanich News about the society’s need for more volunteers.
While the teens created life histories, Katie worked in the garden alongside Tammy, a nurse.
“In North America in general, we don’t value elderly people, as opposed to other cultures who have a bit more reverence or respect for the elderly,” Tammy says. “There’s just so much to learn from them. In my lifetime, I won’t see the changes they’ve seen: automobiles, planes, man on the moon, Internet, world wars – they’ve lived in such diverse times and they have so much to share.”
Tammy was surprised by the insight her kids put into their interviews, despite having gained far more that they’ve given to residents, she says.
“How cool is it to be reading about World War Two and then meet someone who was in the trenches?” Tammy says. “It’s almost hard for them to absorb.”
Abbey and Braeden have nearly completed their work interviewing each of the house’s 12 residents and compiling their stories. The duo filmed and transcribed each interview and offered a digital copy to each family.
“We all had a good look at our lives when we looked back,” Riddle adds. “It’s good to look back. … I didn’t always look like this.”
Riddle attributes an greater sense of family at the house with the presence of the Timms family, from their work on the life stories, to the artwork created by Katie. Last Easter the youngster spearheaded a plan to decorate a planter for each of the residents. Her personal touch didn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s encouraging to see what a good family looks like,” Riddle says. “You get so much bad news and they’re good news.”
“We walked in not knowing what to expect,” Braeden says. “It’s nice to see how different things are – how much has changed.”
“All of the residents have been just thrilled to have them at the house,” says Arlena Dodd, director on the board. “The elders always love to interact with young people … They’re very polite friendly, well spoken very bright – all of those qualities came through to the seniors.”
While this year’s addition of new members to the board has eased volunteer responsibilities for board members, the society would welcomes any additional help.
Anyone interested in volunteering at Abbeyfield, which is supported by resident rents and a small grant from B.C. Housing, may contact Dodd by phone at 250-595-5281 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.