With Thanks to Winston Park and the RIA

‘It was her home,’ recalls Kerry Townson, and her mother loved it there

By Kristian Partington

“Mom loved young people because she was young inside and I think everybody forgets that when they see and old person,” says Kerry Townson. “They just see an old person, but they’re not old; they’re the same person inside that they always were and they love being surrounded by young people.”

Kerry is speaking from a place of fond memory, remembering her mother, Joyce, who passed away last fall at her home in The Village of Winston Park. The team members who worked in the village and the young researchers from the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, who were often in the village, were friends to Joyce, and their conversations added brightness to her days. 

“Some of the people she was closest to were the young PSWs who were 20 or 21 years old,” Kerry recalls with a laugh. “She loved it when they shared their boyfriend problems and she’d give advice.”

From the time she moved into the village, Winston Park was her mother’s true home, Kerry says. When her father passed away in 2013, Kerry asked her mother if she wanted to stay with her the night after the funeral, and Joyce said no. She wanted to go home. In the summer of 2015 when doctors in hospital told Kerry her mother was palliative, she knew her mother needed to be back at Winston Park.

A strange hospital room was no place for Joyce to spend her final days.  

The doctors warned Kerry that the trip from hospital might be too much for her mother in her weakened state, but when Kerry asked her mom to squeeze her hand if she wanted to go home, her grip tightened significantly. When she got back to the village, her room awaited her and the team members who knew her so well all came to greet her. Defying the doctors’ expectation, she began to improve. There were good days and bad days as those final months played out, but each day was a gift – a chance for Joyce to share time with the people she cared about.

Dear friends were able to visit from Richmond Hill and her sister from Brantford came to Winston Park on one of the good days. “It was one of her wishes that her big sister would see her place,” Kerry says. “We managed to get some special people in to visit her, people that she wouldn’t have seen in a couple of years.”

And when Joyce grew weary of her bed, for lying around all day did not appeal to her, the team was able to help her sit by the window with the help of a special lift. Some days it was only for a short time but she loved to look at the view outside her window, no matter what. The next day she would pay, but the effort seemed to be worth it.

Finally the day came when doctors explained the good days, which had grown fewer and farther between, would happen no more. Joyce had lived well for much longer than anyone had expected and she died in September, just shy of the three-year anniversary of her arrival at Winston Park.

A donation was offered to the Research Institute for Aging in honour of Joyce’s memory, for she was always eager to support the efforts of researchers to make life better for older adults. The RIA’s work contributes to the knowledge of caregivers like those at Winston Park, and their skills and compassion were always gifts for Joyce Townson and her family. The donation was a fitting tribute to that legacy.