Two green benches rest outside the front doors of the beautiful Meadowvale Community Centre and Library in Mississauga, just north of The Village of Erin Meadows. Upon one sits Phyllis Webster, a resident of nearby Erin Mills Lodge. Beside her is Jennifer Hill and her daughter Journey, smiling brightly while charming everyone with her squeaky voice and laughter.
When Phyllis speaks, her Newfoundland accent rings in Jennifer’s ears, for she too is from The Rock. Though some four decades separate them in age, they chatter like old friends upon the green bench, instantly familiar in a way that seems only natural in small towns and east coast attitudes.
They talk of family, and Jennifer asks advice on keeping a heart full of patience while raising a young child in a hectic world. “Listen to what they say,” Phyllis offers, “and just love ‘em. It can be hard to do, but you’ve got to listen to what they’ve got to say.”
Phyllis then explains why she left Newfoundland at 19 to become a truck driver in the Toronto area, for there was no work to be found at home in that era. When her children came along, she chose to leave the workforce to raise them, and this perks Jennifer’s interest, for she too chose not to go back to work after her daughter was born three years ago.
“Do you have any regrets about choosing to stay home?” Jennifer asks, and Phyllis doesn’t hesitate a second before answering.
“None at all,” she says, and Jennifer smiles. “See, there’s a reason I happened to come by here today,” she says.
This is Day 1 of the #ElderWisdom campaign, which will see the green benches roll out into parks and prominent spaces wherever Schlegel Villages operate. The idea is simple: put a few residents upon the bench and invite people to sit with them and spark a conversation. As Ron Schlegel once said, “the greatest untapped resource in Canada, if not the world, is the Wisdom of the Elder,” and this campaign throughout Senior’s Month reminds us all of this.
As Jennifer and Phyllis chat outside the centre in the first event of the month, a senior’s fair attracts people from the area to two large rooms inside. Hosted by city councillor Pat Saito, the event offers information on countless subjects related to aging in the community, and the idea of the #ElderWisdom campaign appeals to the event’s host immediately.
“I think it’s very important that people of all ages, including seniors, really recognize the wisdom, the knowledge and the history that seniors have,” Pat says. “There’s so much information there . . . and there’s a lot of that information that can really help people today make the right decisions today.”
Spreading that knowledge and wisdom is the key to this campaign.