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Couple Separated For First Time In 73 Years Tug At Canada's Heartstrings

The Goodines of New Brunswick, Canada, will be spending Christmas apart for the first time in seven decades after the nursing home where the couple lived decided it was time to move 91-year-old Herbert Goodine to another facility.

The plight of the couple, married for 69 of their 73 years together, has sparked outrage in Canada after photos of their last moments together went viral on social media.

The sad saga began on Friday, when their daughter, Dianne Phillips, says she got some bad news from Victoria Villa Special Care Home in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, where the Goodines had lived for the last three and a half years. Officials at the facility decided that Herbert Goodine needed a higher level of care than they could provide for his dementia and that he would need to be moved.

"At this time of year, the way things took place, I feel that is abuse to seniors," said Phillips. "It's emotional abuse. It might not be physical, but I do believe it is emotional."

Global News says, "The couple, who up until now still shared a room and bed, kissed goodbye on Monday morning before Herbert left. Their daughter snapped a photo of Audrey watching from the home's window as her husband was driven away."

"I feel people need to know what a flawed system we have in place. Two words describe it 'unethical and cruel,' " Audrey Goodine, 89, said in a Facebook post, according to Toronto Metro News.

"This should never take place to another human again," she declared.

Herbert Goodine told Global News: "Christmas is a time where everybody enjoys themselves but this is not the happiest time of my life. If they had left me with my wife where I was, it would have been."

In an email to the CBC, a spokesperson said the Department of Social Development was aware of the situation and the family's concerns, but could not comment on the details of this case.

"If it's determined that a senior needs additional care or that their safety is potentially in jeopardy, the department works with the resident and family members to facilitate a move to an appropriate home," wrote Anne Mooers. "Individuals who require a higher level of care than what can be provided in special care homes are moved to where their needs can be more appropriately met, such as in a nursing home or a memory care home."

After his move to a "relief care bed" at Plaster Rock Tobique Valley Manor on Monday, Herbert Goodine, a former farmer from Tilley, lamented that he and his wife "had a beautiful room, two rooms, really," according to the CBC.

"Well, if nothing happens to her, it'll be good," he said, "because she'll be rid of me for a little while."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.