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Getting by with a little help from their friends

Staff writer

Relatively good health, the assistance of friends and relatives, and the convenience of microwaves allow elderly people to stay in their homes even into their 90s.

Some are more active than others, but all are thankful to be living in their own homes.

Jean Bailey, 95, doesn’t know why she has lived so long.

“Maybe it’s because I came through World War II,” she said.

Jean was living in London when she met her future husband, Bob Bailey, who was a crew member on a B17 bomber.

They were married in London in May 1946 by a justice of the peace.

As the wife of an American soldier, she received free passage to America on the Queen Mary. She said thousands of other British women came at the same time. She was reunited with her husband after traveling by train to Florence. They made their home in Marion.

Bob died in 1979. Jean has lived in a duplex on Victory Lane for five years and credits a “really, really, really good next-door neighbor” for allowing her to remain independent.

“She’s my guardian angel,” she said. “I think God put me here for a reason.”

Clarita Caudill checks on her, takes out trash, and shops for her. Another friend cleans her house.

“I can drive but I need a walker, so the only place I go is to the post office,” she said.

Jean used to go regularly to Marion Senior Center. She still occasionally orders meals from the center. She enjoys watching TV, cooking, and reading.

“It seems like all of my friends are in the same shape I am,” she said.

Jackie Hett will be 93 in March. She strives to keep a positive attitude about life.

“My daughters tell me I’m not ready for the nursing home,” she said. “I love living in my own home, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of my children and neighbors. People are so willing to help.”

She recently acquired an emergency button that allows her to call for help if she falls. It will even notify authorities if the fall renders her unconscious. She pays $50 a month for the service.

Jackie gave up driving last year, but a friend takes her to water aerobics at the aquatic center and to lunch at Marion Senior Center. She doesn’t cook anymore unless it is to boil eggs, but she has learned to stay right there until the eggs are done so she doesn’t forget about them. The microwave oven is a convenient way to heat food.

Jackie’s daughter, Melanie, checks in on her every day and pays her bills. Jackie cleans her kitchen, but daughter Malinda of Wichita visits every two weeks to go through the rest of the house.

Jackie is blind in one eye, so she can’t read very well. Two months ago, Melanie arranged for her to get audio books from Marion City Library.

Some books are eight or nine hours long.

“It takes a lot of time, but I really enjoy them,” Jackie said.

Jackie is a member of two card groups, one that meets in her home in Marion, the other in Florence.

“It’s a fun thing,” she said. “It’s just an evening of pleasure.”

She is on the activity board at Hilltop Manor and sometimes plays table games there. She attends a TOPS meeting every Thursday morning at Hilltop’s community center. She also belongs to a pinochle club and goes to worship services at Aulne United Methodist Church.

Jackie moved to Marion from her ranch southeast of Marion in 2012. She lost her husband, Walt, in 1998. She was happy to recently receive her first COVID shot.

“I don’t know why I’m living. I guess just to irritate everybody,” she said with a smile.

Mary Clemmer, 91, of Tampa, credits her son, Ronald, who lives with her, for being able to live on her own. The Vietnam vet has never married. He can’t drive, but she can, so she drives them downtown to pick up mail or buy groceries at Tampa Trail Stop Grocery Store.

“I’m so thankful for that store,” she said.

She is very healthy. She takes no medicine and hasn’t seen a doctor since 11 years ago.

The two eat no meat but get protein from tuna, peanut butter, peanuts, and milk. They never drink soda.

When the weather is nice, Mary takes walks. She enjoys reading nonfiction.

Mary’s late husband, Jim, has been gone 11 years. He was the mayor of Tampa for many years.

At 95, Joan Meyer is still a working woman. She compiles the Memories page for the Marion County Record every week.

“I think it’s important to keep active,” she said.

She regrets that she didn’t get another dog after the one she and her husband, Bill, had died shortly after his death in 2006.

“If I would have known how long I was going to live, I would have bought another dog,” she said.

Her son, Eric, has lived with her since March. The University of Illinois, where he is a professor, adopted remote learning for all classes because of COVID-19. He shops for her groceries.

Joan has had a housekeeper for many years. She drives downtown to mail letters at the post office drop box or go through a bank drive-through.

She has been receiving meals-on-wheels since March and finally went to a beautician two weeks ago.

“She keeps her salon very clean,” she said.

Joan got a COVID shot recently.

“I think my health is as best as it could be at my age,” she said.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2021

 

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