Prime Time profile: 95-year-old stays at home, with full-time help and a bathroom remodel

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 17, 2014 

3 14 Prime Morris PAD

Visiting Angels home care assistant Shana Shelter hands George the dog to Janette Morris, 94, at her Bellingham home, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Morris had the bathroom remodeled to accommodate her wheelchair.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Name: Jeannette Morris.

Age: 95.

Family: Morris was born in England in East Anglia, where she lived for 25 years before meeting her husband, Tom Morris. A member of the Canadian navy, he was stationed in England during World War II. They dated for four years before she moved with him to Vancouver, B.C.

“It was his dream to have a farm,” Morris says. “But there was no way I was going to live on it. I’m not a country person.”

They compromised by settling on a modest farm in Lynden, where they lived for 15 years before moving to a quiet suburban neighborhood in Bellingham.

Morris worked for 20 years as a secretary for her husband’s dry pigment business for concrete and wood. Her husband died 28 years ago. Morris has five children, 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Hobbies: Morris found passion in acrylic painting starting when she was a little girl. While in England, her parents hired a woman teach her to paint, but she has been unable to do so for 20 years.

After having kids, her painting dwindled and she no longer made the effort, but her love for the arts rubbed off on a grandson. His painting of his mother hangs in Morris’ living room.

Living at home: Deciding to stay in her Bellingham home was never a question Morris actively considered. She always had it in her mind that she would never move to a retirement home.

Morris did get a taste of that lifestyle when she was in a physical therapy rehabilitation facility after hip replacement surgery.

“I’m not particularly sociable, I guess,” she says. “I used to hate going into the dining room with those people who never say a word.”

Although Morris has a tough time getting around her house in a wheelchair, the thought of moving out remains daunting.

“I couldn’t pack up my furniture and just put it in storage,” she says. “If I was in one room, I’d go barmy.”

Full-time home: After two hip replacements, knees that have given out, glaucoma, poor hearing, and the loss of her sense of smell, it obviously would be difficult for Morris to stay at home without help. So Morris has a full-time woman who helps take care of her and the house by cooking, cleaning and keeping her company.

Happy remodel: Morris decided five years ago to remodel one of the bathrooms in her home to make it more wheelchair accessible. She chose Rose Construction of Bellingham because the name sounded homey. After a couple of phone calls and a consultation, the remodeling began.

Morris was impressed by the company’s respectful salesmanship, and didn’t feel like she was being pushed into hiring them. One week and $6,000 later, her bathroom was equipped with dark non-slip bars next to the sink and toilet, and a standing shower with a non-slip seat.

“I used to have a comfortable amount of money,” she says. “Now I have an uncomfortable amount of money.”

All in all, she’s happy with the work and would like to remodel other parts of her home, but hasn’t yet. While Morris feels physically restricted, she’s content living alone with George, her fluffy white bichon frisé.

“Everything is a great effort when you’re my age,” Morris says. “I miss being young and doing things.”

Shelby Rowe is a freelance writer in Bellingham.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service