I have been asked why I like old people so much. I hadn’t given it much thought until I was asked that question on several different occasions. So I started searching my past to see if I could come up with an answer.
The first old person I knew was my Grandmother on my mother’s side. ( My dad’s mom died when I was 6 and my only memories of her are of my dad standing on her porch saying good bye. We are all in the car impatiently waiting for him to come so we can start the drive home.) Anyway, my mother’s mother lived a couple hours away so when she would come and visit she usually stayed a few days. She wasn’t all that nice so I don’t think I started liking old people then.
In college I majored in Health Education and my first job was in a nursing home, or skilled bed facility or care center or what ever you would like to call them. I was responsible to make sure every person had an activity to do. There were about 40 residents or patients, ranging from a man who was fully functional except he had a pace maker that had to be monitored…..to a man that had had a complete stroke and couldn’t move or talk. Most residents (that’s what I will call them) had some level of dementia and many had alzheimer’s. Needless to say, they could not participate in the same activities, due to their varies limitations. So I spent most of my job searching for activities they could do as a group and as individuals.
What I learned was even if they couldn’t talk or walk, if I treated them with respect and dignity I could discover something they could do. Here is what I learned.
Gladys had severe alzheimer’s and couldn’t speak anymore. If I gave her some yarn she would roll it in a ball. She would do this for hours with a smile on her face.
Helen loved to cook when she was young. Although she had lost most of her function, if I gave her the sugar, eggs and butter to cream, she would mix it for hours. We had many delicious chocolate chip cookies at our center.
Dr. Sorenson loved to tell stories. He was from Chicago and was Al Capone’s doctor many ,many years ago. ( I was told by his family that THIS was a true story.) I gave him a tape recorder so he could tell stories any time he wanted.
Gil was probably the most difficult. He had had a severe stroke and appeared alert but could not communicate verbally. He did not have movement of his arms or legs, but if lifted he could sit in a chair. He seemed to like visitors and activity in his room. So I rounded up a tape player and we played music, hung bright pictures in his room and played board games on his tray. ( Of course, I played both positions and he watched….I think).
There are many stories and each person was very unique. I developed a close bond with every one of them. Even the ones that yelled and screamed at me ( alzheimer’s will sometimes do that to you).
I quite that job because I was having a baby. Before I left they surprised me with a baby shower. I will never forgot that party. I was surrounded by people with extreme physical and mental challenging and most had very little in terms of material positions….. and they were honoring me.
Yes, that is were I began my great love for old people.
If you are looking for activities to do with the old people you love, here are some web sites that provide some suggestions.
- Boomers With Parents: Geared towards adult children and how to create activities for your elderly parents to keep them fit and active.
- Aging: Article for adult children with parents that have dementia, and gives ideas that they can still do together.
- Parent Giving: For adult children who want to keep their elderly parents from getting depressed or melancholy by giving them activities to do.
- Love to Know: Lists activities for seniors that are independent and can do activities on their own, and also a small list of activities for those seniors in nursing homes.