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If you spend time with Donna Stadler, 88, and Jean Hartzell, 93, you’ll find they share an unbreakable bond. The two members of Parkway Place (a nonprofit, faith-based senior living community) became friends more than eight years ago. They live two doors down from each other, eat dinner together regularly and go on walks at the community every evening. They share several interests – including exercising – but overall enjoy each other’s company the most. Studies show that friendships have many benefits for older adults, and they positively impact physical and emotional well-being. 

“We share a lot of common interest, so it’s nice to know I can rely on her for anything,” said Stadler. “She was there for me after my husband passed away, and neither of us have children in the Houston area, so we also spend holidays together. I am a former physical therapist and Jean taught exercise classes, so we share an interest in fitness. We started walking around the community and outdoors five years ago. It’s not only to work out, but also to socialize and stay connected. You can make a friend at any age, and I am happy Jean and I found each other at Parkway Place.”

“It’s comforting to know there is somebody who cares about me,” said Hartzell. “We enjoy each other’s company, and I look forward to spending time with Donna each day. Our walks and talks in the evening are meaningful, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend in retirement. She is like a sister to me, and it’s amazing to learn about a national day dedicated to friendship.”

Stadler and Hartzell are both from the Midwest but spent most of their lives in the Houston area. Hartzell and her husband moved to Parkway Place when the community first opened 20 years ago, and Stadler and her husband decided to call the senior living community home in 2010. Since then, both of their husbands have passed away, and the ladies have relied on each other. Stadler and Hartzell formed a strong bond filled with laughter, support and happiness. Both ladies never imagined finding a best friend in retirement, but that’s exactly what they did.

“Seeing Donna and Jean together inspires us all,” said Susan Phelps, executive director at Parkway Place. “Having a close friend in retirement is very important. They encourage each other to stay active and social, and they maintain their lifestyles while gaining new friends. We are thankful they found each other at Parkway Place, and we look forward to seeing the new memories they build together.”

Involvement in social activities is essential for older adults, as it has a positive effect on their health and overall lifespan. Studies show that seniors with close friends tend to have a more positive and optimistic outlook. At Parkway Place, the members have many opportunities to stay active and participate in engaging events at the community.

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