Contentment as a Way of Life

Carl and Jane Shepherd are a couple whom others at Chesterwood Village envy. When 93- year old Carl guides his now-wheelchair-bound wife of seven decades through the halls of their West Chester, Ohio retirement home, people take notice. The bond between the two nonagenarians is unequivocal.

Together since 1936, the pair could hardly have grown up more differently and followed more discrepant paths. But the longer they’ve been together, observes their daughter Peggy, the more alike they seem.

After 47 years of farm life, in 1986 Carl and Jane downsized to a ranch house in
Hamilton, Ohio. When Jane became non-ambulatory and required more
assistance than Carl could provide, she moved into nursing care at
Chesterwood Village.

For almost two years, Carl lived alone in the house in Hamilton. He learned to
cook and shop for groceries without Jane and visited her several times a week
at the facility. But “we married to be together,” he says, and in 2006, he
decided to sell the house and get an apartment at Chesterwood to be close to
Jane. In typical fashion, Carl handled the adjustment well. “My dad is very
accepting of things the way they have to be,” Peggy observes.

Though Carl had smoked for 45 years, his health has remained enduringly
strong, undoubtedly stemming from the miles he walked when he was young
and the years of hard farm labor. Each year, after his cardiologist checkup, the
doctor tells Carl with assurance, “See you next year!”

Jane and Carl recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. “I couldn’t
have done any better than marrying Jane,” he says with supreme satisfaction.
In answer to how the two succeeded at such a happy marriage, he stresses that
the key is lots of give and take between the partners.

Carl’s daily schedule is well-structured. He wakes, fixes his own breakfast, and
around 11:30 a.m. goes to Jane’s room. After lunching together, they spend a
relaxing afternoon watching television. They share dinnertime and often later
stroll to one of Chesterwood’s scenic courtyards, where they enjoy communing
with the birds and flowers. By 7:30 pm he retires to his own room.

“I used to walk five miles a day,” Carl laughs. “Now I get my exercise by
walking back and forth between our apartments!”

The two, who used to go everywhere together, now spend more time apart
than ever before. How does Carl handle the new circumstances? He says he
has simply willed himself to adjust. “I make myself be content,” he softly

[Sadly, Jane Shepherd died in October of 2007.]

Carl and Jane Shepherd