In the depths of February just before Valentine’s Day, four people from Toronto’s Fairview Nursing Home descended upon George Brown College with a green bench to sit upon and wisdom to share with anyone who chose to stop and chat.
Marie McCrindle and Bob Rook both make their home at Fairview and were honoured to take the time to speak with students at the college campus. They were joined by fellow resident Carol McNeil and recreation team member Courtney Clouthier. This was Marie’s first #ElderWisdom event and she admits she wasn’t expecting such a warm response from the students, nor did she plan on being interviewed by CBC News.
“I loved it,” Marie says. “I enjoyed all the people that came to me so I could offer them sound advice about love and relationships.”
A more formal #ElderWisdom campaign is organized by Schlegel Villages each summer, placing residents upon green benches in prominent locations throughout Ontario cities, but Fairview figured if ever there is a time to share wisdom, it’s in the season of love.
Courtney says the impact of the Green Bench conversations shows itself in many positive ways. The first woman to stop by at the George Brown event, for example, said she loved the idea but was in a hurry and didn’t have time to stop. Courtney convinced her to take five minutes and afterward the woman was in tears, grateful for the awakening she felt and the realization that a five-minute conversation can have a lot of power.
A friendship that grew out of last summer’s #ElderWisdom event is another example. A young woman walked by the bench as it was set up then in a Toronto Park, stopping for a moment to speak with Carol who was sitting there enoying the afternoon - the conversation carries on today.
“To this day she still comes by the home to visit Carol and they’ve formed a friendship now,” Courtney says. “It’s so nice to see how they formed such an authentic relationship where Carol now has someone who comes to visit her often.”
It’s amazing how quickly a bond can form with a complete stranger, Marie says, describing a young woman she spoke with upon the bench at George Brown College. Her mother passed away a few months before and her father died within weeks of this meeting. She opened up to Marie about the loss. “She is a very strong woman,” Marie says, “and she said I reminded her of her grandmother and the wisdom she used to get in speaking with her. She gave me a great big hug afterwards.”
Bob says he enjoyed meeting so many young people from all over the world on the multicultural Toronto campus. “I met a lady from Brazil and another lady from Somalia,” he says. “There are two countries that are very far apart and they had different ideas about what we were talking about, love and relationships.”
Perhaps that blending of ideas is what makes Canada such a great place to live.
The day was such a success that Courtney was approached by someone who’d like to organize another event at a different George Brown campus, and they’re planning it for the end of March. This man sat and observed for a while, Courtney says, watching the smiles, laughter and embraces grow quickly among strangers who became fast friends upon the green bench. He decided #ElderWisdom is a movement that should spread, and the team from Fairview Nursing Home and Schlegel Villages couldn’t agree more.