What started me on this was a comment someone made to me at a yard sale. She had recognized me from the picture with this column. “Dealing with old people all the time, it must really wear on you.”
“No,” I replied, “it is actually very inspiring.”
She just stared blankly at me for a few seconds and then walked off in silence. Since I couldn’t finish the conversation with her, I’ll finish it with you.
Take a client I spoke with just this week. His wife died suddenly this summer and his son is undergoing extensive treatments for cancer. When I offered my condolences for the loss of his wife he said, “Well, it was a blessing in that she went quick and peacefully. Don’t know how I’ll manage without her, but there’s no time for that right now. Right now, my son needs me. That’s the important thing.”
A couple I met with lately in their mid-sixties are each taking care of an aging mother who lives alone. Both mothers require a considerable amount of time and energy to keep them independent and in their own homes.
When I asked what they would do differently if they could, the wife answered, “We’d like to be able to travel a bit, but we can’t with things being the way they are.” “It must be tough,” I commented. “Oh, no. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, this is what people do when they love each other. Isn’t it?”
Almost daily, people share with me the heroic stories of their everyday lives. By simply doing what they feel they should, they are making the world a better place. And they are teaching me a great deal about human values.
It isn’t just family, either. I meet neighbors and friends who have welcomed the opportunity (I almost said burden) of assisting one another. The support comes in the form of money, providing care, helping around the house and garden, or just dropping by occasionally to listen again to familiar stories. These wingless angels come in all ages, but it is remarkable how many are what we call “seniors”.
An eighty year old lady volunteer from a church group summed it up pretty well: “I’ve gotten a lot of help in my time, much of it from people I was never able to repay. The little I do for others not only passes the good I have received along to someone else, it fills my days with a very special kind of joy.”
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.