seniors alone

Dorothea Paul packs Christmas treats for shut-ins. Even though the 92-year-old Danville woman’s son and his family live in Michigan, she is happy to stay in Danville because she has many friends.

Some seniors find reaching out to others puts a smile on their face — not only during the holidays, but throughout the year.

Dorothea Paul, 92, has lived in Danville for 58 years. She lost her husband 30 years ago.

“Even though my son and his family live in Michigan, I’m happy here in Danville because I have lots of friends,” Paul said.

“All my original friends are gone, so I just made new, younger friends. You have to keep busy in order to keep going.”

Paul stays very busy with her volunteer projects.

She sews blankets for the babies in the Provena United Samaritans Medical Center nursery and volunteers at Bethel Lutheran Church, the Danville Symphony Orchestra office and Danville Public Library.

“I also get tickets for just about all the events in town, and I walk every day,” she said.

At 88, Leona Bartling of Danville surrounds herself with happy, young faces to combat her loneliness. Her four grown children and grandchildren are spread around in different states. Her husband died three years ago.

Bartling holds regular arts and crafts sessions and cooking lessons for about eight children from the neighborhood.

“I live in a very friendly neighborhood, and the kids always played in my yard, anyway,” she said.

Louanne Young, 82, volunteers in Danville, attends exercise class three times a week and visits her friends in the nursing homes to keep from being lonely.

When her best friend died, Young became friends with her best friend’s grown children.

“I think I’ve adopted them,” she said.

Even though she has a brother in town, Young chooses to stay home on Christmas Day.

“I live in an apartment building, so I can always knock on someone else’s door if I get lonely,” she said.

“Life is busy,” Young said, “and you need to keep it that way.”

Richard Jones, 66, of Tilton has no family nearby, and sometimes he gets lonely.

“On Christmas Day I attend my church” he said. “Then I go home and watch Christmas shows on TV or read the Bible.”

Jones relies on Faith in Action and the CRIS Senior Services van to take him to doctors’ appointments, and CRIS delivers meals to his home.

“Sometimes the people from my church come by and bring me dinner,” he said.

Nancy Homza, 63, and her mother, Beth Phillips, 85, have a ball in Danville.

“There’s so many things to do in Danville,” Homza said. “You should never be lonely or bored in this town.”

Every holiday season, Homza and her mother attend several church bazaar luncheons, as well as the Danville High School Madrigal dinner. They also go to the Village Mall to hear Christmas carolers and frequently eat breakfast at CRIS.

Homza volunteers and sometimes takes her mother along to get her out of the house.

“Just get yourself out and talk to people,” Homza said. “It really helps.”

Coffee, conversation

A group of retired men —usually eight or more — meets each weekday morning, as early as 5 a.m., at Whooligans Restaurant in Tilton.

They haven’t given the group a name, but their friendship is thicker than blood, and their jokes and laughter are contagious.

Getting together like this with their retired friends lifts everyone’s spirits for the day.

Whooligans is the third restaurant they’ve adopted over time to get their morning “fix” of coffee and friendship.

Just what do they discuss over breakfast?

Anything and everything — from politics, to the Illini Chief, to God’s Acre Cemetery, an abandoned cemetery in Catlin these men maintain.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Kent Durbin of Catlin. “There’s very few places like Whooligans where you can go and criticize each other openly around the table.”

Many years of professional work are represented in this circle of men, which includes a mechanic, a former labor union president, an agronomist, a farmer, an electrician and sky diver, a teacher and an industry worker.

And they’re always ready to go that extra mile for anyone in the group.

“We’d do anything for each other,” Jim Miller of Catlin said.


On Wednesday, look for stories about:

-- Local senior services, including transportation.

-- Gift ideas for aging family and friends.

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