For many of us, watching a loved one age can be a difficult experience. Moreover, if their health begins to deteriorate, we can sometimes be left feeling helpless – especially if we are concerned that they may be suffering in some way.
In addition to poor health, another issue that elderly people can face is that of loneliness. A 2016 USA Today report stated that isolation is an issue that affects more than at eight million over-50s in the U.S. And the AARP Foundation estimates that such isolation can be as damaging to people’s health as smoking half a packet of cigarettes per day.
In fact, this solitude can have a devastating impact. The Campaign to End Loneliness believes that isolation can cause the mortality rate in older people to rise by 26 percent. As a result, families are being encouraged to seek out assisted-living facilities or retirement homes for their relatives. That way, they are able to socialize with other members of the community and hopefully avoid any feelings of isolation.
Nonetheless, the thought of our loved ones being in retirement homes can sometimes leave us racked with guilt. Indeed, some people might fret about whether they’ve made the right decision. And perhaps these concerns crossed Carol Musterer’s mind when she helped her then 93-year-old mother move into an assisted-living facility back in 2014.
Musterer’s mother, Clara Solar, is originally from Guttenberg, New Jersey. And in her youth Solar had worked as a seamstress at the Solar Embroidery Finishing Company, where her husband Rudy was the factory manager. Solar had fastened lace onto fabric for a weekly wage of just $22.
Back in 2014 Solar was moving into a retirement home in Rancho Peñasquitos, San Diego, California, with the help of her daughter. The facility wasn’t too far away from Musterer’s own home. Although they were now living a lot closer to one another, Solar’s daughter couldn’t help but worry about her mom being lonely.
So, the evening before the big move, the apprehensive daughter said a prayer. Musterer hoped that her mom would make at least one friend while at the home. As it turned out, though, there had been nothing to worry about.
You see, on Solar’s first night in the retirement home, her daughter introduced her to the other residents. In the process, Musterer explained that the 93-year-old was originally from a state almost 3,000 miles away. And that was when one woman spoke up.
After Solar struck up a conversation with the lady in question, Dorothy Nelius, it soon became clear that she too was originally from N.J. And the pair hit it off right away. In fact, it turned out that the two women actually had even more in common than they’d first realized.
That’s because not only did they come from the same state, but they had both worked at an embroidery factory – and the same one at that! What’s more, they’d once been friends! Yes, the two women had worked together when they were teenagers.
But a lot can change in 76 years, and so at first they hadn’t recognized one another! As soon as they’d started chatting, however, the memories came flooding back. Moreover, Nelius had even kept photos of their time at the factory.
In one particular picture, the long lost friends can be seen smiling at the camera along with Solar’s husband Rudy and Nelius’ stepfather, who was the owner of the embroidery factory. What’s more, the two women weren’t the only ones to be reunited. You see, Nelius’ sister, Alice Macfarlane, had also been employed at the same factory as a young girl.
However, Nelius had then joined the United States Naval Reserve, and in 1946 the sisters had moved to San Diego, leaving Solar behind. The women later got married and lost touch. Nonetheless, Nelius had not given up hope that one day they would meet again.
Indeed, the former naval officer had written Christmas cards to Solar every year since 1946, to no avail. But seven decades later, they would cross paths once more. And everyone seemed to be stunned by what had happened.
In an interview with news channel CBS 8, Macfarlane recalled her sister’s excitement at seeing Solar again. “She called me up and [said], ‘You won’t believe this… Clara’s here!’” Macfarlane explained. And she wasn’t the only one to be overjoyed about the former colleagues’ reunion. Solar’s daughter seemed to be just as thrilled.
Musterer must have been delighted that her mother had finally found someone to keep her company. “I got goosebumps,” she told CBS 8, “It was just a remarkable thing.” In fact, it seemed as if Musterer’s prayers had been answered.
And Musterer’s mother also marvelled at what had happened, “It was a shock,” she admitted in an interview with CBS 8. Her surprise is understandable – with 50 states and more than 300 million people in the U.S., the likelihood of the three women choosing to live in the same county – let alone retirement home – was slim.
The only person who didn’t seem too taken aback by the whole thing was Nelius. “It’s just amazing, I guess,” she said. Regardless, she must have been over the moon at the prospect of being reunited with her long lost friend.
And after 76 years apart, they were bound to have some catching up to do – especially as Solar now had children of her own. Indeed, according to the CBS 8 report, the two women gossiped like they were 16-year-old girls again.
Now Musterer could take comfort in the thought that her mother wouldn’t feel lonely in the retirement home. Four years on from their dramatic reunion, it’s unclear how the three ex-seamstresses are getting on now. Still, we’re just glad that the women had the remarkable opportunity to be together once more.