In 2018 I had the pleasure of meeting Shona when she enrolled her parents, Stuart and Wilma, in our programs at the Ramaz School in Manhattan. Stuart and Wilma are Scottish and have enjoyed a marathon marriage spanning nearly 60 years that has brought them from Scotland to England to Massachusetts to Manhattan. Stuart was an electrical engineer and Wilma a nurse. Shona is the quiet enabler, creating art behind the scenes while empowering her parents to engage in life to the fullest, in spite of the disease which continues to progress in both of them.
Following is my interview with Shona:
KY: Your parents were living in Massachusetts; what brought them to Manhattan?
SK: As my parents started to decline, it was really important to me that they not be alone. I wanted them to be as close to me as possible.
KY: What do you think is the secret that has helped to keep their marriage and love alive for nearly 60 years?
SK: Their partnership is a dance. They both have very established positions in the relationship and always have. Essentially, my father loves to be cared for and my mother loves to care for him. They also have hobbies they do on their own: My father likes poetry and to draw, he’s also a gardener and my mother has become quite the painter! They both also have similar humor and don’t take life too seriously. They know just how to strike the right cord in each other.
KY: Why do you think your parents enjoy being part of the Sweet Readers Communities?
SK: We have our perception of what it is to be an adult and kids are just different. They are more open – no history with my parents or the other adult participants, no expectations. Kids have the ability to open up older adults in ways adults just can’t! I think my dad felt seen and heard – not like someone whose time has past….It’s easy for older adults to feel like “I used to be this and now I’m not this.” He felt relevant again. My parents were treated with respect and dignity and that was really positive for them.
KY: Do you think the Sweet Readers had an impact on your father even over Zoom?
SK: Yes! After he hung up, my father started mentioning more things he could have shared – he just likes talking to kids – he didn’t have any grandkids and the kids make him feel younger and heard – he liked it! The other interesting thing is the kids are able to reach people who are normally isolated – with more ease. I think it’s a great program. Really useful in a lot of different ways. When the pandemic is done, this is still a really important way to connect. The fact that last week he was meeting with Sweet Readers in Chicago and next week he’ll get to meet with Sweet Readers in Connecticut is really cool!