What’s on your bucket list?
Two Chilliwack seniors have already embraced the opportunity to cross an adventure off theirs.
Moments that Matter is a Chartwell Retirement Residences wish-granting program, and it’s recently been introduced at the Hampton House location.
“Have you always dreamed of renewing an old passion, fulfilling a lifelong dream or creating a special moment? Whether your wish is big or small, we want to hear it,” the poster reads.
While some retirement programs focus on physical, social or intellectual care, Moments that Matter aims to boost emotional wellness, in unique ways.
Lillian Sjogren, age 91, inadvertently made her wish on the bus ride back to residence while chatting with Tracey McDonald, Lifestyle and Programs Manager at Hampton House.
“We took the scenic route home, and I said ‘Oh, look at the beautiful horses in that field. I’d sure like to ride on a horse again before I get much older,’” Lillian recalled in the retirement residence she’s called home since 2010.
And on a drizzling June 2 afternoon at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, she made it back on the horse.
Born in Alberta in 1924, Lillian grew up with horses.
“My dad made me herd the cattle. I learned to ride very well,” she said. She rode horseback daily on the three mile trip to and from school each day too. She took the reins for long journeys and short, venturing across the province through blizzards and heat.
“I was a daredevil, I didn’t give a damn if I fell or not,” she laughed.
She stopped riding horses when she married at age 21. Between then and now, raising four children and spending a career as a teacher, she got back in the saddle only one time, while on a tour in New Zealand in 1979.
“We went up a mountain. I remember looking down over a waterfall, and [the guide] said ‘Don’t worry, the horse doesn’t want to go down there any more than you do,’” Lillian said.
That nervous excitement returned as she climbed up onto a horse last month for her Moment that Mattered. She heard the familiar sounds of gentle neighs and hooves rustling in the gravel as she regained her bearings.
Lillian’s confidence quickly returned as she and the horse took those initial steps, while her daughter Anita and granddaughter Tara sent her on her way.
With Tracey and guide Corrine Kriegl by her side, the group took a peaceful ride through trails in the reserve. Lillian soaked in every minute of her momentous afternoon.
She admits that getting on and off the horse wasn’t as easy as it was in her youth, and that she wishes she could “tear off in a full gallop” like she used to, but she loved the ride nonetheless. “It was a wonderful experience. I don’t need to go again,” she chuckled, “but I did it, and I enjoyed it.”
Her fellow residents let out a roar of laughter when Lois Comerford, age 80, admitted that her wish was to drive an 18-wheeler.
Born in 1935 on a farm in Saskatchewan, Lois also pursued a career in teaching. She and her husband moved to B.C. in 1964, and relocated to Chilliwack in 1989.
“My husband and I did a fair amount of camping. We’d have a truck and trailer, or a truck and a fifth wheel – I drove those,” she said of their vacations across Canada back in the day.
“When we’d be driving down the highway and pass a big truck I’d say, ‘Gee I’d like to drive one of those someday.’ I just thought it would be fun.”
After pursuing various leads to no avail, fate stepped in when Tracey met Daryl Wear, owner of a local heavy-haul trucking company. She pitched the idea and he was immediately on board, offering the use of his 97 Peterbilt custom semi-truck, and his large property, to make Lois’ wish come true on June 23.
Lois climbed into the driver’s seat as Daryl pointed out all the controls. “I had no problem with the clutch,” she said proudly, “and the steering was easy enough. It’s such a beautiful truck.”
“He did the shifting, I guess he didn’t want me to grind and wreck it,” she smiled. She drove smoothly in a wide and lengthy U-turn around the property.
After her turn in the hotseat, Daryl took Lois for a drive all the way to the residence, where she waved like a celebrity to the group of seniors and staff who watched eagerly from the patio.
Daryl shared tales of life on the road as he showed Lois the features of the 1000 horsepower, 18-gear truck. She listened to the loud Jake brake, chatted to another driver over the CB radio, and reminisced about the road trips she took with her husband.
“It was really fun. I would have loved to driven farther – it was awesome,” Lois says of her day ‘driving truck.’ “Unbelievable.”
As she’s in the midst of arranging more Moments that Matter, Tracey hopes to see more residents pop their wish slip into the wish-making box in the common room, under a bulletin board filled with pictures of these two residents on their special days.
“Some may feel like they’re asking too much, or maybe they’re not asking enough,” she explained. Seeing Lillian and Lois having their moments, however, is an experience that residents share like family members.
“Give it a shot,” Lois advises her peers. Whether it’s a small gesture or a grand wish that can be achieved locally, staff will do their best to make it a reality.
If it’s too big for the in-house budget to accommodate, residents can submit a proposal to Wish of a Lifetime Canada, an external charity devoted to granting lifelong wishes for deserving seniors.
“I hope that the program continues to grow,” Tracey said. “It’s about making peoples’ lives better, one wish at a time.”