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Senior profile: Gloria Downey

By JASMINE JESSO

Special to The Appalachian


Gloria Downey. – © Jasmine Jesso / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

KIPPENS – Gloria Downey was born in 1938 in Clarenville. She is an avid reader and a big movie buff, loves gardening, acrylic painting, arts and theater.

“If God said ‘I’m only allowing you to keep one, reading would be the top thing,’” said Gloria.

When it comes to her reading preferences, she chooses classic English authors from the 1800-1900’s such as Anthony Trollope, whose wit and sense of humor she really enjoys, as well as Mary Ann Elliot who wrote under the name George Elliot just so she could get published in a man’s world.

In 1955 at age 17, Gloria sought work in Clarenville. The amount of work available there at the time was slim to none. She heard on the radio that Stephenville Crossing was looking for aides at the Cottage Hospital. She got married and relocated to Stephenville Crossing when she got the job as an aide. Later, after a divorce, Gloria moved back to Clarenville but returned to Stephenville shortly thereafter. She worked in healthcare most of her life, including seven years at Stephenville Hospital, three years in Stephenville Crossing Hospital and fifteen years the at Clarenville Hospital.

In Clarenville, Gloria was active in the amateur theater scene, where she travelled to different areas with the Newfoundland and Labrador Theater Festival to perform plays.

“There were usually ten plays up for grabs but only seven could go to the festival,” Gloria explained, “and we always got picked to go to the festival.”

For a play she did about 15 years ago called, ‘Moo’, Gloria was nominated for a prize. Although she didn’t take home that prize, “Out of 28 actresses, I was one of the 3 actresses nominated so I’m pretty proud of that,” said Gloria. “That’s the highlight of my life!”

Gloria is now an advocate for seniors in the area. The BEST senior shuttle bus that was just established in the Stephenville area was her idea.

Said Gloria, “I used to take the bus in Clarenville and when I moved here there was no bus. So, then I asked myself, how do I get a bus here?'”

Gloria contacted the Stephenville Town Manager and got the ball rolling. Thanks in large part to Gloria, Stephenville seniors now have their very own shuttle bus service.

Being an advocate for seniors in the area, Gloria brought up a few challenges that seniors are facing these days. Unfortunately, some seniors do not have support from their families to help them out with more physical household chores. Gloria said that it is very hard to find anyone to clear snow-filled driveways, even at a rate of $35 an hour. A lot of times this is the reasoning for seniors to turn to long-term care and having to leave their homes.

“A big issue for seniors is snow clearing,” said Gloria. “I’m in my home and there’s 6 feet of snow and there’s nobody coming.”

“Whomever I phoned didn’t come, so I phoned this guy next door and asked, “’Would you like to do some snow clearing for me?'”

After Gloria told him she would pay $35 an hour, the neighbour responded with, “I can’t look at that for $35 an hour. I tell you what my love, you’ll just have to sell.”

Gloria thought about what this neighbour had said to her for a few days and she had asked herself, “Do I want to leave my home? No, Definitely not!”

Gloria then offered her neighbour $35 an hour for the first foot and a half of snow then anything above that she would pay $50 an hour, which he had accepted and agreed to clear her driveway.

Homecare is also available to seniors who need a bit of extra help in their own homes with daily routines and simple day to day tasks. There is only so much money set aside from the government to go towards homecare, making it a little more difficult for seniors trying to stay in their own homes, which also means that homecare is only available during certain hours throughout the day.

If a senior needs help with simple tasks such as putting on their socks or getting dressed for bed, sometimes there is no one available at the time since their homecare worker has finished their shift for the day. Little things can be easily overlooked sometimes, making it a little harder for seniors to have a better quality of life, while trying to live at home and be as independent as possible.

Another reason for a lot of seniors to choose long term care is accessibility.

“Seniors are dealing with big issues in the availability of buildings that are wheelchair friendly,” said Gloria, adding that, “Ramps are so important.”

With such obstacles, the accessibility and community involvement for people in wheelchairs becomes lower.

“There’s several things that I’d like to go to that I can’t go to,” explained Gloria.

One such example is something as simple as going to the beach to listen to the waves and dip her toes in the water.

Gloria has resided at the Silverwood Manor for the last five years and seven months, where she is ecstatic to have her own private room. Not all long-term homes have this luxury, notes Gloria.

“Your own room is the whole key for happiness for the seniors.”

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