When we grow older, simple things like friendship are essential

A lovely elderly woman called Mary Tony was living alone in a small house and — now 98 — just trying to pass the time. On a warm summer day, a pleasant breeze might be blowing and neighbors chatting on their porches, but she was stuck inside.  

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Every day a little bus stopped at her door and took her to the local senior center. There she was provided with several hours of cheerful activity and socializing, but today it's a little different: there's a camera crew on site.

When they turn to Mary, she laughs shyly.

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"I hope that if they go home and they don't come back the next day because they're no longer here, that their last day was fun," says an employee from the senior center.

When asked why she considers her job so important, she simply says: "Because they're still alive. They're no different than they were when they were younger."

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The crew filming them catches the sadness in Mary's eyes and starts chatting with her. What's her life like? She lives all by herself?

"I don't mind. What am I going to do? Where could I go? I'm by myself. I can't see. I can't hear. I can't live with my nieces, they all have their own families," she says, resigned.

The senior center provides the light in her life: "I can't wait until morning comes, so I can go to it. I like it down there. You meet friends, you talk to them, you do something to pass your time! Otherwise, Saturday and Sunday, there's nobody here."

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What does she do on the weekends? 

"I get junk mail. I strip it and after I strip it, I cut it up in small pieces and put it in the garbage," she says in a broken voice. "I have to do something, otherwise I'd go nuts!"

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When employees from the senior center visit and discover how Mary spends her weekends, they're taken aback. "I guess I'd never thought of that. After they leave me and I go home to my own life... what they're doing when they're alone," says one of them, wiping away tears.

But Mary maintains a pragmatic, clear-eyed attitude: "I'm blessed. How many 98-year-olds are still walking on their feet? I am. And I want to for as long as I still can."

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When her visitors prepare to leave, Mary chokes up, thanking them and saying goodbye.

"I love you for coming. It's made my day. And I will never forget it," she says, amazed at the attention she's received.

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The company of others, their affection and attention: those simple things are worth more than anything else for someone like Mary.

When we're young and fit, we shouldn't forget those who came before us. Visit the older people in your life. Be a friend — you'll be so grateful for friends when you get to Mary's age! 

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