Keep smiling through: Dame Vera Lynn and Colten Care residents

Keep smiling through

103 years old Dame Vera Lynn - lockdown role model for Colten Care home residents

Birthday card for Dame Vera LynnStop press 18 June having published this article yesterday, sad to learn of the death today of the amazing Dame Vera Lynn, darling of the Forces who helped raise morale in World War Two.  Lovely though to learn as well that she was surrounded by her close relatives. Ed.

Iconic wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn has surprised and delighted residents of Colten Care's Canford Chase home with her personal response to a card they made and sent for her 103rd birthday.

As lockdown approached in mid-March, Colten Care staff were looking for imaginative and interesting ways to cheer everybody up. 

“It was a rather wet and grey afternoon and everyone was naturally apprehensive about lockdown,” recalled Canford Chase Companionship Team Leader Julie Wathen. “Vera Lynn had just put out a public message, as her birthday was a couple of days later, encouraging everyone in Britain to ‘keep smiling through’, as she’d sung in the lyrics of We’ll Meet Again at the start of the Second World War.

“We decided to create a card for her as a fun activity to cheer us all up. I felt she was a great role model again for these troubled times and one our residents could really relate to. Her message about smiling seemed especially appropriate for us to rally behind.”

The greeting in the card wished Vera a very happy birthday, stating: ‘Here at Canford Chase, you will be pleased to know we are still smiling through.’

Julie researched a contact address in East Sussex for Vera Lynn and posted the card that day, not expecting a reply.

Birthday greetingAn unexpected and most welcome reply!

Three months on, all at the home were thrilled to receive a letter from the famous lady herself, typed and sent by a personal assistant, and addressed to ‘all the residents at Canford Chase’.

It read: “Thank you so much for the beautiful handmade birthday card, which took pride of place on my mantelpiece.

“It was very special to see your happy faces and to know that you ‘keep smiling through’. 

“In these difficult times, it’s so important to smile and the beautiful yellow flowers in your photos are bright and cheery.

“I send you all my very best wishes and thank you again for taking the trouble to produce such a very special birthday card.”

Resident Doris Storey, who celebrated her 101st birthday in lockdown just after Dame Vera became 103, said: “It was so lovely that we did the card and photoshoot, and that Vera Lynn replied. She would obviously have had lots of cards.”

Not bad for a couple of old ones

When Julie reminded Doris that her birthday and Vera’s were around the same time, she laughed and said: “Not bad for a couple of old ones.”

In a TV broadcast for the recent 75th anniversary of VE Day, Vera Lynn said that while people may be apart due to lockdown measures ‘hope remains even in the most difficult of times’.  

Canford Chase is one of seven Colten Care homes rated Outstanding by care sector regulator the Care Quality Commission.

Find out more about Colten Care's New Forest homes online

With more than 30 years’ experience, Colten Care is an award-winning family-owned care home company. It has 21 quality care homes covering Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire and Sussex and offers a range of services spanning residential, nursing and dementia care.

Colten Care operates six residential nursing and care homes in the New Forest, including three in Lymington: Belmore Lodge, Court Lodge and dementia specialist Linden House. There are also homes in Brockenhurst (Woodpecker's), New Milton (Kingfisher's) and Mudeford (Avon Reach). Click on the links to find out more about each home...

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