United Kingdom

Couple in their 90s who were forced to spend their first nights apart in 70 years reunited

A couple who spent their first nights apart in seven decades due to lockdown were reunited in time for their 70th wedding anniversary.

Frank Howell, 90, and his wife Joan, 93, have been inseparable since tying the knot in 1951 and had never spent longer than a few days apart.

But retired carpet fitter Frank was forced to move into Astley Hall Nursing Home in Stourport, Worcs, last September with dementia and bladder cancer.

As a result the devoted couple were kept apart for five months until they were finally reunited on February 2 when Joan joined her beloved husband following a fall.

Frank and Joan Howell were reunited after several months apart in time for their 70th anniversary last week

It meant the lovebirds were able to celebrate Valentine's Day as well as their platinum anniversary together last Friday.

The great-grandparents toasted the occasion with tea and cake surrounded by balloons while opening cards from well-wishers - including one from The Queen.

Staff say the pair, who have both had the Pfizer jab, now spend all day together 'holding hands and having a natter' and their quality of life has improved dramatically since they were reunited.

When asked the secret to a long and happy marriage, former nurse Joan said: 'Like every marriage, you have your arguments and your moments but that's what happens. You have to stay true to each other.'

'I love Frank very much and always have.'

The couple, who have two sons, four granddaughters and one great-grandson lived all their lives in Kidderminster where Frank worked for the family carpet business until retiring in 1995.

The devoted couple, pictured on their wedding day in 1951, have been practically inseparable ever since

Frank and Joan Howell were kept apart for five months because of the pandemic but are now together again at Astley Hall Nursing Home

Son Andrew, 60, said: 'In these days and at their age it's quite an achievement.

'Unfortunately we were not able to be there with them but we're so glad they were able to spend the day together.

'It was brilliant to get a telegram from The Queen. They were really pleased with that.

'Dad went in for end of life care because he has severe bladder cancer and was only given a few weeks to live but he has thrived in there.

'Then mum had a series of unfortunate incidents including falling at home and breaking her hip and wrist and had to go into hospital. She actually ended up getting Covid but had mild symptoms for her age.

The happy couple spent their anniversary looking over old photos with members of staff 

Among the well wishers on their anniversary was The Queen who sent a telegram to congratulate them 

'They don't share a room and are on different floors but they can see each other every day like they've done since they married when dad was 20.'

Many of the UK's 400,000 care home residents have spent nearly a year in isolation without being able to hug their family members due to the pandemic.

And several of those who were able to have visitors have done so through screens and windows.

From March 8 homes will be reopened to allow visits from one friend or family member who will be permitted to go indoors to hold hands – but not hug or kiss – as long as they have tested negative for Covid and are wearing PPE.

Care home manager Matthew Cox said: 'It's been really incredible to bring people back together during these difficult times.

'It has shined a light on what we have to look forward to for the future of our residents, our hardworking staff and the people that we love.'

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