Maria and Jennifer

Maria, 89, was referred to GoodGym by the Home Library Service in Westminster. Originally from Spain, she moved to London 55 years ago and was only planning to stay for one year and has been here ever since.

In Spain Maria worked as a dressmaker, but when she moved to London she worked in domestic roles starting as a housekeeper and then in hospitals. In 1976 she started a job in the famous Berkeley Hotel as a chambermaid, living and working in the hotel. At the time, the Royal Suite cost £1000 per night. There she met many interesting guests and made friends with many of the housekeepers and maids. She loves sharing these stories with Jennifer.

Maria lives on her own and does everything for herself including her cleaning, cooking and shopping. She is visually impaired and has another volunteer who reads her letters to her every other Friday and now her GoodGym runner Jennifer visits each week for a chat.

Maria and Jennifer have been paired since February 2015. Maria says:

Jennifer is very lovely. I like to talk - we don’t need to do anything we just talk. We have apple juice together each week. It a great help having someone to chat with. If I could, I would like her for 24 hours!

Jennifer wanted to become a coach runner to keep up her fitness but quickly realised it was much more than that. Jennifer says:

It surprised me how much I enjoy our weekly catch ups and glasses of apple juice. I thought that the run element would be my pay off but I really love chatting with Maria, we have a great laugh! She thanks me every visit but it is just as enjoyable for me to chat with her. It is no hardship at all, I really get a lot out of it. It has helped me stop procrastinating about getting out the door to run. Having someone waiting for you at the other side means that those first few minutes in the cold or rain are more purposeful.

As my family don’t live in the UK I don’t have any day to day interaction with elderly people. I thought GoodGym was an excellent way of getting out for a scheduled run and meeting up with an elderly person. I was most looking forward to being in touch with a part of society I wouldn’t usually interact with in my everyday London life. I also wanted to be able to give back in some way as I knew I would enjoy this.

Maria has taught me so much! Her view on things is based on 89 years of experience and perspective - it is sometimes surprising, she is very progressive.

I am in constant awe of her photographic memory. She is visually impaired so all her London knowledge is memory-based. She would give the A-Z a run for its money, and can tell you any bus route in London in amazing detail. It’s so refreshing to meet someone with such a sharp mind and interesting life; her stories are so rich with detail and life lessons.

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