RFBI Bellorana Masonic Village Valentine's Day

Devotion, dedication and commitment were all on display for the Valentine’s Day lunch at Bellorana nursing home in Bellingen.

As part of its focus on positive ageing, Royal Freemasons Benevolent Institution (RFBI) Masonic Villages across the state held Love is in the Air activities, including a couples’ lunch.

 RFBI CEO Frank Price said Valentine’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to explore the universal theme of love.

“Love is something that resonates with everybody and highlighting definitions of love can promote conversations between residents, staff, families and the neighbourhood,” he said.

“It’s about seeing people for who they are, not what age they are and hence the search for everyone’s cherished Valentine memories and love lessons creates an effective way of celebrating what love means to everybody.  

“We have many couples in our villages who will be able to celebrate their love for each other, for other residents it will be the celebration of their family and friendships or it may be their love of religion, music or our village pets.

“Our Activity and Lifestyle Coordinators have been especially imaginative this year and we are holding romantic luncheons with couples, love quiz games, love song dedication concerts with singers, love-based arts and crafts and special Valentine’s Day morning and afternoon teas.

“Across our 21 villages, approximately 2500 residents have been able to sit down together and fill out Love Is cards, exploring what love means to them and then pinning the cards up on the walls for all to read the themes and interests.”

Bellingen’s Life and Leisure Officer Wendy Flynn said although there is often sadness in residents’ circumstances, on this occasion the focus was about bubbling up the joy.

One of the pairs at the couples’ lunch, Marlene and John Pryor, have been married for 37 years.

After an operation on his back, John was left unable to walk and moved into the nursing home four years ago.

Five days a week, Marlene drives from Dorrigo to visit John and help him with his lunch.

She says they have always regarded Valentine’s Day as special.

“We always celebrate it together. We used to go out to lunch, and we travelled a fair bit till he got sick,” Marlene said.

Peter McEwan drives from Urunga every day to be with his wife Vivian, who is 90 and has dementia.

“I come here every day at lunchtime and try to feed her but she doesn’t always want to eat,” he said. “And today’s one of those days. Normally she’s good, but not today.”

They were married ten years ago, when Peter was 70 and Vivian was 80, having met after their previous spouses died.

They weren’t in the habit of paying much attention to Valentine’s Day before Vivian moved into the nursing home.

“Since she came here, we do,” Peter said. “We don’t know how many more we’re going to get.”