I’m 32 years old, but since my late teens, I’ve joked with my closest and longest-lasting friends that I could see us moving into the same nursing home and drinking large quantities of beer together there in our waning years. But what’s mostly a joke to me is a reality for two 89-year-old women who have been best friends since they were just 11 years old.
Life in a nursing home
Across the US, about 1.4 million older Americans live in nursing homes – the majority of whom are over the age of 65. People opt to live in nursing homes because they need assistance with day to day tasks, like making food, getting dressed, managing medical care and their medications, and bathing.
Older Americans living in nursing homes are often there due to increased needs relating to common conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and dementia.
Kathleen Saville and Olive Woodward have known each other since 1941, and since then, the two have never lived more than a 10 minute drive from one another. Having reached a point where independent living no longer made sense, Saville moved into the Berry Hill Park Care Home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire UK. And in keeping with the tradition of living close to one another, Woodward decided to move in as well.
Never all that far apart
Having your best friend as a direct neighbor makes life in a Care Home even better.
“If I’m unhappy or in trouble I only have to go to Kathleen and we’ll always end up laughing,” Woodward said in an interview with the BBC.  And laughter really has been the key to their friendship.
The two said they first bonded over common interests, which for two 11-year-old girls consisted of playing games and teasing boys. That bond has lasted a lifetime, with the staff at the Home Park dubbing them the “dynamic duo.”
The two expect their friendship to transcend this lifetime. Saville says: “If Olive goes first, she’ll come back to fetch me. We’re going to be friends in heaven.”
And if that’s the case, God himself had better watch out. Saville in particular playfully says that she can “still pull the boys.”
An unusual friendship
According to Sally Tebbett, who manages Berry Hill Park Care Home, says the relationship these two friends have is uncommon. “They never stop chatting and giggling. It’s so endearing, they genuinely love each other and you can see that,” she told the BBC.
Saville says that their friendship contains a lesson for everyone who loves a dear friend: don’t wait to reach out. If you care about someone, make the time for them.
“Put yourself out and go and see your friend,” Mrs Saville said. “Don’t always wait for them to come and see you.
This, I think, is amazing advice. I think I might just phone a friend today.
- “Facts and Statistics about U.S. Nursing Homes.” Nursing Home Abuse Center. Accessed December 1, 2020.
- “Friends of 80 years move into same Mansfield care home.” BBC. Accessed December 1, 2020.