by Suzy Right llc
With 20 years experience caring for seniors in their homes, I’ve learned a few things. Such as, those who have strong ties to family and community, are less likely to feel alone, isolated. Even a weekly luncheon with the gang, gives us a reason to get up in the morning! Often, when we’re raising our families, the household and kids are enough to keep us busy and fulfilled. Ironically, it seems that the more time that passes, when the kids grow up and away, many of us are left alone. The time we need the connections the most can be the time when we have fewer and fewer. Neighbors and friends move away or pass on… we’re left alone. But, keeping active, busy and engaged in life can be more simpler than you think! Read on for ideas.
I love people. So when I had the opportunity to work with seniors in their homes, I jumped at the chance. Senior citizens are usually patient, tolerant, and appreciative. And many enjoy a good story! But some I’ve met are also sad. And I saw a pattern to this sadness. It seemed that whenever a client was moody or sullen, it was generally related to being alone. Lonely. And I could see why. From my e-book, “Elder Care Stories: Real Life Experience Working With Elders,” I relate how many seniors I met were basically alone, with very narrow circles of remaining friends and family. Those times were especially trying, since I am a very gregarious person: and always busy with some new adventure. It’s easy to be adventurous when you’re young and your kids are young… but sometimes adventures seem to fade away in our sunset years. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
What about attending church or synagogue or Mosque? Spiritual ties keep us hopeful. It may be time to re-evaluate life’s disappointments through a spiritual lens, within the dimension that there is reason for everything that happens to us. Exploring our spirituality is a door: try walking through! And remember, that it isn’t up to anyone else to define another’s relationship with the Almighty. But as one who spent many hours with senior citizens, we often spoke about the spiritual. I was there to listen. And support. Not to lecture, or inform.
What about neighborhood affiliations? Theatre clubs? Dinner or lunch clubs? Bridge games? Even Bingo? Groups such as these are always looking for those interested in making a contribution of input. What about outside interests? Community gardens? Teaching a class: sewing, handicrafts, wood working, car care– people are always looking for information. Even PBS TV, which showcases all kinds of ideas of staying engaged with life– got an idea to share? What about volunteer work? One lady I knew couldn’t get around too well. But she could knit up a storm! So she knit baby blankets, receiving blankets, for newborn babies. A friend made the suggestion that hospitals were happily accepting handmade blankets for newborns. And the young moms were grateful to have them. Another man I knew called his friends, asking for them to donate whatever shoes they no longer needed: the shoes were going to homeless shelters. He organized the pickups a few times a year. And was completely satisfying to his sense of brotherhood. Another man did likewise with suits to recovering alcoholics who needed to look their best upon re-entry into the work field. A woman did similar with women’s clothing for the local battered women’s shelter. Then she also taught them how to have eye contact and talk on a job interview. This is life-changing: for both the giver and the receiver. And senior citizens have much to give!
I also walked people’s dogs. And just that simple act brought me into contact with neighbors, galore! With my charges’ permission, I’d extend an invitation to neighbors here or there, just to pay a call to my seniors to talk. It worked wonders! Just getting ready for ‘company,’ put a smile on many faces. The key is feeling useful to others. I found that even a simple suggestion like, helping to prepare a meal for someone in need, became a driving force to get out of bed in the morning. I would share news articles with those interested in that particular subject. One gentleman I was privileged to care for, worked in the space program. Any program on TV that appealed to that time of our history, would light up his face and send him chattering about the miracles of titanium steel and its many uses! Then I’d search science magazines for articles about the current uses of titanium steel– to bridge his stories with modern history. He’d nod in gratitude with a heavenly smile.
These aren’t just ‘things to do:’ these ideas build bridges between the past and the future. Often, when senior citizens sense that life has passed them by, that they have outlived their usefulness, they are despondent, subdued, melancholy– and usually when the talk starts to include the need for prescription drugs. I’m not saying to do away with scripts, but, not all feelings of sadness can be (or should be,) eradicated through prescription drugs. Besides, most senior citizens today did not grow up with the free use of drugs (except the hippies of the 60’s, perhaps!) But, not all sadness or regret can be countered with drugs. An attitudinal change works wonders! And how can we achieve that except by re-thinking our lives and situations, but with fresh insights? Turn the thought from the darkness of feeling alone, to the light of being and doing!
Living the good life. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Why live it only when you’re young? It is said that today’s aged 50 is the new 40; 60 is the new 50; 70 is the new 60 and 80 is the new 70; and so on. Let’s live it! Get going! Get involved!
Living The Good Life: Family, Friends and Fun For Senior Citizens
By Suzy Right, llc ©2013
Copyright 2013 Suzy Right llc