“I know at the end of every tunnel there is some light,” says Rita Vollick as she reflects on the first half of 2021 after moving into her new home in The Village of Erin Meadows. Rita has an inherently optimistic nature that comes across as she talks in her quiet voice.
She speaks of falling in love with Canada the moment she came over the border in the late 1940s to meet her sister who was waiting for her. She’d had some challenges in Pennsylvania where she was born and her sister had married a Canadian. Not long after she arrived, Rita met a soldier returned from Europe named Albert, and they were married in 1948.
They raised their sons and Rita built a steady career as an executive secretary with several large companies, finally ending up with Ontario Hydro. At the age of 49, however, she suffered a brain aneurism, which she says “put a stop on my life for a while, wondering what was coming next.”
As she reflects back now, she smiles and says that was half a lifetime ago; she’s nearly tacked on another 49 years in her long and happy life.
The optimism she carries is well-founded, it seems.
“It’s amazing how quickly the time flies,” Rita says.
She was 65 when she retired and began a volunteer career with the City of Mississauga, where for 25 years she was a fixture in a swimming program for people living with disabilities. She would be a friendly face helping to support someone in a wheelchair to the pool or often just a calming voice for conversation.
“I’m still called upon to help, even just to sit and talk to someone over a cup of coffee,” Rita says, but she’s not as able as she once was to get out. The opportunity to volunteer at Erin Meadows, however, is certainly intriguing and, as she settles in, she says she’ll be open to all possibilities.
Rita moved to the Ailsa Craig independent living neighbourhood at Erin Meadows in late 2020; she was content where she was but her sons urged her to consider a place where she could get more care and support should her health needs change. She wasn’t opposed to that logic, so she moved in based on their prompts, sight unseen.
“My first impression was: it’s heaven,” Rita says. “The people are so warm and friendly and willing to help in every situation, and that’s amazing for someone who has just moved into a place. It makes me feel as though I’ve lived here for a lot longer than I have.”
Yes, the potential for care and support is important, Rita adds, but it really is the people that make a difference; team members and residents of all backgrounds with stories of life to share.
“It surprised me that they could have this kind of living space for so many people in one little place,” Rita says. “It truly is a Village.”