John and Joanne enjoying a leisurely bike ride around the Vedder river with a friend.

John and Joanne enjoying a leisurely bike ride around the Vedder river with a friend.

Written in the stars: Chilliwack seniors’ residence is the perfect place to call home

Sometimes, it seems like something was meant to be — like it was written in the stars. For John and Joanne Ravensbergen, the stars were aligned way before they met.

Back in 1951 each of their families emigrated to Canada’s west coast, travelling separately from the Netherlands on the same boat, the Volendam, to start new lives. Joanne spent her formative years in Calgary, while John’s family started on Vancouver Island for two years before eventually settling in Vancouver. Their teen years passed with school and clubs, friends, and family gatherings.

A friend of a friend

In 1967, Joanne attended her brother’s wedding in Vancouver. There, she met a mutual friend — John — and they hit it off, heading out for coffee and a trip in John’s powder-blue convertible to the old chairlift on Grouse Mountain.

Joanne was smitten, but she thought John was already taken, so she headed home to Calgary.

Six months later, John was still thinking of her, and his mom suggested he send Joanne some of the pictures taken during their time together. A pen-pal relationship formed and was sustained over several months, including through Joanne’s trip to Holland. Once she returned, John hopped into his new fire-engine-red convertible to spend two weeks in Calgary. The two spent the fortnight in day trips and adventures, falling in love. The bond they’d forged was too strong to break, and they returned to Vancouver together.

They married in September, 1968, raised four children, opened their own business, and were deeply involved in the communities they called home: Vancouver, Richmond and later, Abbotsford, near their six grandchildren.

An unexpected isolation

As the years progressed, Joanne developed a hearing condition called hyperacusis, which causes a heightened sensitivity to sound. Public spaces became overwhelming, as sounds were amplified into a tsunami of noise. Joanne pulled back from activities that she loved, like attending church and participating in Aquasize, her favourite class at the pool. Even restaurants were too much as the combined sounds of background music and air-conditioning made it impossible to communicate with people. She began to feel isolated from the world.

As John and Joanne approached retirement, they began to wonder if a community existed that would be conducive to coping with Joanne’s hearing condition. Learning about Elim Village Garrison Crossing in Chilliwack, they drove over to check it out. What they saw inspired them, and they formed a habit of driving from their Abbotsford home to Chilliwack to do their grocery shopping because they loved the area so much. “We drove around and thought, ‘Wow! This is where we want to be!” Joanne remembers. They knew this would be their ideal home in retirement, and they made the decision to move there.

The couple has lived at Elim Village Garrison Crossing for almost two years. Joanne has found people who are like-minded and understand her condition. Having a quiet conversation is ideal for her, and at Elim, she has lots of new friends who love to chit chat over a puzzle in the amenity space. “She loves it here, she loves the community,” John says. “She’s just in her glory.”

John and Joanne both enjoy staying active. They love getting out on their bicycles to enjoy the nearby Vedder River trails where John used to fish as a boy, or to explore the Rotary loop. They feel Elim Village Garrison Crossing was made for them– it was meant to be, just like their love story.

Find Elim Village on Facebook here and check out the different housing options on their website: elimvillage.com/chilliwack/

John and Joanne both enjoy staying active. They love getting out on their bicycles to enjoy the nearby Vedder River trails where John used to fish as a boy.

John and Joanne both enjoy staying active. They love getting out on their bicycles to enjoy the nearby Vedder River trails where John used to fish as a boy.

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