Nursing home sets scene for later-in-life love story

Partners Peggy Nyhaug and Doug Olander met at Good Samaritan Society

Closeup of softly smiling senior woman holding hands with her partner at the Good Samaritan Society.

Logistics mean very little when it comes to Peggy Nyhaug reuniting with her love.

“Just brings tears to my eyes. You don’t know how special this is,” Nyhaug says.

Several times a week, the 76-year-old takes off from Good Samaritan Society – Sioux Falls Center in South Dakota for what’s become a regular rendezvous.

“Hi you! Well, we made her,” Nyhaug says as she arrives at her special friend’s room.

That “you” is Nyhaug’s partner Doug Olander at Dow Rummel Village.

“You got a nice haircut. Goodness sakes. I’ll tell you what,” Nyhaug says as she compliments Olander.

Casual connections like these have been a long time coming.

‘Missed him a lot’

The two first met at the Society’s therapy and rehabilitation center in late 2019.

“She has a very good personality. Very loving woman,” says Lana Hennings, Society restorative aide.

Nyhaug was dealing with complications from diabetes following the loss of her husband of 40 years.

Olander had his own health issues. They quickly clicked and he says their friendship grew.

Eventually ending up in separate locations for long-term care was tough.

“Oh, I missed him a lot. Just him not being there at the table to talk to,” Nyhaug, who stayed at the Society, says.

Texting took the place of face-to-face. With her daughter one day, Nyhaug read off a few.

“He sent me these cute little emojis and it was a little boy and girl holding hands and then it had a question mark above it and I thought, ‘Oh!’” Nyhaug says giggling. “I said, ‘What do you think this means?’ ‘Well, mother, don’t you know? What do you think it means?’”

A special valentine’s date in 2020 arranged by Society staff took the relationship to another level.

“I got them flowers and a valentine’s cake. Then we got them a special lunch,” Hennings says about the romantic meal.

Nyhaug adds, “We got it all served and everything. He said, ‘I’d like to say a prayer.’ That is what sealed the deal. I really liked that. I love you for that.”

Love on lockdown

The new love faced a lockdown in March with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safety protocols kept them physically apart for the next 49 weeks.

“He has a lot of faith, and he shares it. He would talk to me about God’s plan and how we need to follow it and we’ll have peace and contentment. It was probably the thing that helped me live through that time period because it was tough,” Nyhaug says.

That companionship is key at this stage of life.

“It means a great deal,” Olander says.

You could say their love story is pandemic-proof.

“Oh, it’s very important and these days, the pandemic brought it to a head. I think maybe if that hadn’t happened, maybe we wouldn’t have got as close as we are. We talked just about every day on the phone,” Nyhaug says.

‘Makes me feel bubbly’

When in-person visits came back around last year, Nyhaug and Olander were more than ready.

Nyhaug says she had “butterflies in my stomach. Like I was a teenager.”

Olander jokes, “so we can sit and visit. Give her a pinch on the butt once in a while.”

“Just makes me feel bubbly.”

When asked what she wants from the relationship, Nyhaug says she just wants to be with Olander forever.

“When God closes a door, he opens a window, but it’s up to you to find it. That is the truth,” Nyhaug says.

Holding tight to what they’ve found is where you’ll find Nyhaug and Olander.

“One day at a time. One day at a time. I’ve just always told him that my hope is I’ll just always be close to him. That’s my hope,” Nyhaug says. “I love you. Love you with all my heart and I love you more every day.”

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Posted In Senior Services, Sioux Falls