By Theresa Blume
Living in a place where I connect with many people in their 80s and 90s, I have made some interesting observations. No one talks about how much money they have or how successful they were at their jobs.
Each resident possesses only the necessities and just a few extras. Some have one tiny dog or one cat, while others have a valuable collection of things they love. Most of them have pictures of family proudly displayed in prominent places.
The apartment that touched me the most is the lady who has a folded flag in a case displayed on her main living room wall. She told me it was given to her when her husband died. Obviously, she cherished her husband, and I feel his presence all over her apartment.
Though some use a walker or are in a wheelchair, they are still considered independent. This means they do their own shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and trash removal, although many have older children or other relatives that drive and assist them.
It is heartening to see how much some older children and relatives care for their loved ones. I love to see the smile that goes with the words, “My son/daughter is taking me to lunch and shopping today.” Some have relatives or friends that take them out once a week. For older people just getting up and dressed can be a struggle, but when they have something to look forward to, it gives them new life.
Unfortunately, others have family that does not live close enough to visit often, if at all. I see loneliness on their faces on weekends and holidays because for them, it is just another day. They are still proud to show off pictures of family members, but a sadness comes over them when they explain that their children have jobs that have taken them away or that they are too busy to visit.
It is not just the children who are at fault. Parents can get so busy that they show their children by example that work can come before family. When children grow up with that message, they become the ones who are missing in the parents’ lives.
Even if you are far away, there are ways to still connect. You can call your parents on a regular basis, daily or weekly. The act of writing a letter a few times a month says more than the words you write. People congregate every morning waiting for the mailman, and one postcard can change their entire day. At this age knowing that someone loves them is the most important gift they can receive.