When my family immigrated to Canada in 1989, one of the greatest sacrifices was leaving our much loved much loved grandparents, a loss reinforced by every phone call and letter in the years that followed. Thankfully my grandparents later visited us in Canada, but these times taught me that seniors have much to offer us. Often they are not only senior in age but also in wisdom.
Now, more than 25 years later, my wife Ruth and I together with our children are enjoying new friendships with seniors in Rossmere. I am so thankful for these developing friendships which have enriched our family as a result of my recent election as MLA for Rossmere.
Canada Day was a perfect example of this as we had the privilege of spending time at a seniors’ home with the Fast family whose family band, ranging in age from 4 to 40, played and sang for a full house of grateful seniors who clapped, sang along, and enjoyed the debut of a 4 year old drummer accompanying his family! Young and old celebrated our great country with coffee and cake, discussions about the past, and also shared ideas about present and future challenges. I was blessed by the sparkling spirit of a woman who was over ninety years old, as well as by the obvious love of a couple married for more than 60 years!
Another Rossmere senior who inspires me is Arvid Loewen. Arvid is a grandpa who has devoted his senior years to blessing others in an unusual way. Arvid would say he isn’t qualified to do “great things,” but that has not stopped him from taking his love for bike riding to great lengths. Excited by the idea that he could raise money to help orphaned children in Kenya, Arvid has put his passion for biking to work. This developed into a love for long distance cycling and in 2012 Arvid set a Guinness World Record for cycling coast to coast across Canada. He has since cycled twice across Canada, including one such grueling journey this month. He is also the co-author and subject of a book whose title reflects Arvid’s indomitable spirit: “When Quitting is Not an Option.”
A final Rossmere senior who has enriched the lives of many is the late Sir Paul Martin, who passed away on July 4, 2016. A WWII veteran, Paul’s medals for bravery were significant, but notwithstanding these achievements, it was his approachability, humility and graciousness which impacted me most.
There is rightly much talk about youth and the future, but perhaps not enough about the wisdom, experience and joy that seniors bring to us. I am often touched by a simple conversation, challenged by seeing someone nearly twice my age work hard to set a world record, and humbled by meeting a man who fought and risked his life for the freedoms we all enjoy every day. Our lives are richer when we befriend seniors and I have found them to be some of the most friendly and fascinating people we can have the pleasure of knowing.