Names: Jennifer Wilke and Peg Wilke.
Ages: Daughter Jennifer, 62; mother Peg, 92.
Unlikely pair: "We could not be more different," Jennifer Wilke says of the lifelong passions she and her mother have pursued. "I have always been more introverted, with a love of reading, writing and films. Mom has always been more extroverted and sociable, with a great love for sports and the outdoors."
Jennifer is especially proud of Peg's athletic and outdoor interests - you name it, she's probably done it - and loves to show visitors how those interests are reflected on a vibrant wall of large color photographs in the condo they share.
College grads: Peg, a Bellingham resident since 1971, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a master's degree in counseling and psychology from the University of Montana before serving as a counselor at Whatcom and Shuksan middle schools.
Jennifer, a graduate of Western Washington University's Fairhaven College and a resident of Bellingham since 1991, has written a historical novel that she hopes to see published. While working in Juneau, Alaska, she wrote two plays and had the satisfaction of seeing them cheered when they were performed by a theater group. She's researching a book about a local 19th century murder case.
Living together: Jennifer, an only child, and Peg have made a success of living together since 2007 after their purchase of a condo in south Bellingham.
They were able to avoid remodeling by pooling their resources to buy a ground-floor condo, since stairs would have become an increasingly difficult obstacle.
"Mom wanted to stay on the south side, so I agreed to that," Jennifer says. "I would have been happy living tucked away near the woods somewhere, but Mom wanted to live near everything."
They chose a two-bedroom condo on Old Fairhaven Parkway, not far from where Peg once owned and managed a fourplex in Happy Valley.
"Inching" toward Mom: In 2004, they decided Jennifer would rent an apartment in her mom's fourplex, where her mother had long lived upstairs, so Jennifer moved in downstairs.
Eventually, they came to realize, it didn't make sense for them to live separately and duplicate everything.
"I was inching closer to helping her," Jennifer says. "I would go up and cook some suppers and I would help with some errands. But Mom was still very active in retirement with bowling and aerobics and other sports."
Adaptability-plus: Jennifer marvels at how "amazingly adaptable" her mother has been, recalling how she gave up downhill skiing at 70 only to take up snowshoeing.
"She has given up activities, but not all at once," Jennifer says. "She was one of the first members of Bellingham Athletic Club. She was still doing water aerobics until two years ago. And when she gave up driving, she began to enjoy the WTA's specialized transportation and seeing parts of the area she normally wouldn't see."
Walk, walk, and walk some more: Peg now uses a walker, but still gets out as often as possible.
"I get out for a walk every day I can," she says, although sunny days are a huge bonus.
Caregivers welcome: Mother and daughter appreciate the caregivers they've hired, along with what Jennifer has learned from a caregiver support group facilitated twice a month by Mary Lynn Palmer at PeaceHealth St. Joseph's Adult Day Health Center.
Peg gets one-to-one attention when the caregivers visit, Jennifer says.
"Roberta Eubank is her primary caregiver and they've become total pals," she says. "Mom has assured me she still likes me best, but Roberta is right there as a close No. 2."
Happy scene: Peg says their mother-and-daughter living arrangement works well for her.
"We have just what we want," she says. "We don't want anything more. We're both enjoying it very much. It's such a help to have this nice place and be able to share it with Jennifer."
A daughter's advice: Asked what she would tell others who are considering intergenerational living, Jennifer says, "Where else could it be more important for you to be? I have found it to be a real blessing to be still learning from my mother. I wish I had paid more attention to her sooner."
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.