I don’t know what I expected when I moved into this combination living establishment. I think I was so stressed at the time that my only expectations were of being able to take a breath occasionally. I found so much more.
This is our first Christmas here. This week the staff and the residents pulled out the decorations and our hallways and community rooms became more festive.
I told my grandson one night that us oldsters were going to party. He laughed. Apparently there is an expectation that old people, especially those who have physical challenges do not party. Outsiders expect people in old folks homes, like they used to call them, to sit around and be silent. That happens, but what I want y’all to know, as my Alabama friend here would put it, the people you meet in Senior living and nursing homes, are still the same on the inside. They laugh, they cry, they tell jokes and pull pranks and yes… they like to party and occasionally there is alcohol involved.
Festive here does not involve just the walls being adorned with festive holiday creations, but also wheelchairs, walkers and canes. It’s not unusual to hear us break out in song at the supper table, yes, I’m still a supper gal. One of our friends brings his iPad, cranks it up and plays Christmas music to accompany our supper. Our 94 year old resident that I will call J. is in a wheelchair and wears her Christmas tree hat on her head, reminding us that you are never too old to celebrate and…she doesn’t mind shaking it up with some dance moves. You can dance in a wheelchair.
The people living within these walls are resilient and they make the most of their lives. Some are here by choice, meaning they were able to choose this living facility. Others are here because of Cadi Waiver or Elderly Waiver and when circumstances such as an accident or a stroke etc. deemed they needed help with living, they had no choice as to their place of residence. Because of openings and fewer facilities taking this payment, they may be sent many hours away from their home base isolated from family and friends. We have those folks here and they they make the best of their circumstances.
Take the time to visit people you know, and those who are new to you, and you’ll hear some fascinating stories of lives well lived, having experienced all scenarios and emotions evoked by life circumstances.
The Christmas season is tough. Underneath the smiles and greetings you might miss the sadness that’s hidden because of having to leave their homes, losing those they loved, and missing their families. Families visit but it’s different. A few hours here and there before loved ones hustle back into the world, a world residents used to be a part of. Memories surface in minds of what was and silent tears are held in the heart. The best Christmas gifts are presence of family all year long.
Yet each morning no matter how sad their heart is, those that live here get up and go out into their new world trying to make the best of each day. A world where their care depends on others for many basic needs. A world where there is a sameness, but that sameness is changed by attitudes.
Each day a senior gets up knowing a friend might have gained their wings during the night. The sound of an ambulance invokes prayers because they know one of their own is in trouble. I have learned from each person I meet acceptance, caring, laughter and joy, and death. It’s all here.
Stop in and visit. Let this great older generation tell you about their resilience. It’s not a sad place unless you let it be in your mind. Take a chance, you might meet some of the best friends you could have in your life.