16 Years at Chartwell: Birdie’s Story

Bertha Holtby, better known as “Birdie” to friends and family, has been a resident of Chartwell Southwind for the past 16 years, and is likely one of the first people you’ll meet if you choose to call the retirement residence home.

While our staff are very involved in helping ensure the transition for our new residents goes smoothly, it’s often comforting to talk to a friend who’s had the very same experience, and Birdie is that friend. With her characteristic warm smile, you’ll find the resident ambassador asking for your name and guiding you to the most popular spots in the residence.

“It’s your new home, and sometimes you don’t know where anything is until you ask, and sometimes you feel nervous to do that,” she says, drawing on her own experience as a resident. “I like to be attentive to new people in their day-to-day and share information they just aren’t aware of yet.”

Once you’ve settled in, you’ll find Birdie introducing you to wonderful experiences you might not have thought of at your new home, like her H.O.P.E. project where she and her fellow residents raise money for local charities and foundations through bake sales, or maybe you’ll enjoy her Crokinole group where laughter is abundant. “A game is for laughs, not competition,” she says. “Laughter is what we need most.”

A caring heart, always surrounded by people

Born on a farm in southern Ontario, Birdie has always kept the well-being of others at heart. A well-baby nurse for the Canadian Mothercraft Society, she trained in a beautiful little hospital caring for infants and young children. Birdie was a guide and influence on parents, and by the age of 19, she took charge of newborns when their mothers returned home from the hospital.

Her knack for care didn’t end there. Birdie’s favourite job of all was becoming the first activity director in a nearby nursing home, bringing her full circle when it comes to her impact at her own retirement residence.

Chartwell Southwind’s Ambassador

In 2001, Birdie and her husband moved to a scenic 12-acre farm of her eldest daughter. A country girl at heart, Birdie never thought she’d be moving to the city in May 2006, much less into a retirement home. It was a difficult decision; her daughter was selling the farm and Birdie’s husband was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s, motivating the family to seek additional support. In the end, Chartwell Southwind’s vast greenspaces and bird feeders drew her in.

Over the past 16 years, Birdie has found even more reasons to call Chartwell Southwind a true home. “The staff is an extension of my own family. I think the world of them. They are always so good to us,” she says.

Love and empathy are key factors of the strong bond between residents and staff. “They are always trying their best and always wearing a smile.”

At her retirement community, Birdie enjoys her independence, favouring quiet time outside with her beloved birds. She knows everyone by name, but highlights the importance of enjoying time to herself – a lesson we could all learn from. Her other advice?

“If you meet someone without a smile, give them one of yours. As long as you can smile, you’ll help yourself and someone else along the way.”