Here’s a lovely story that just randomly popped into my Inbox today. I thought it just too hard to resist so I’m sharing it on here because it’s so gosh darn sweet. PLUS it includes a piccy of a very lick-able ice-cream WIN-WIN!
Hopefully it makes you smile, offers a bit of perspective and then gets you thinking about priorities you might like to re-evaluate within your own life.
And that maybe life’s too short for all the silly stuff?
At the very least, it will leave you wishing you looked as fabulous in a hat, as this beautiful lady.
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she was legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.
“Oh, I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
“Mrs Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.”
She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories.
Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.”
Then smiling the whole time, she asked me to remember the five simple rules to being happy:
Free your heart from hatred.
Free your mind from worries.
And you know she’s right. Reminds me of a great saying I heard once: Being HAPPY is not a pursuit – it’s an obligation.
If it’s good enough for Ghandi, then maybe we should be touching Grandma’s feet, too?
I’m pretty sure it was legendary peace activist Mahatma Ghandi, possibly during one of his enormous political passive-resistance ‘sit-ins’, who declared that a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.
Smug in the knowledge that his beloved India already boasted a solid track record in the unconditional caring of it’s ageing population, he would have been totally confident bandying about such bold and impassioned statements.
In a country where taking care of one’s elderly parents in order to preserve sacred family values is not only tradition, it’s actually considered fundamental to society as a whole.
In fact, so great is the esteem and reverence bestowed upon India’s elders, that youngsters are expected to literally bow down and touch the feet of their treasured grandparents as the ultimate display of respect and adoration.
The Chinese too, stay loving and loyal to their older family members by keeping them close, trusting in their vast spiritual wisdom and believing that great fortune will follow them and their household, because they are doing so.
Greeks and Italians also maintain endeared customs where elders demand intense respect from their offspring – including blessings that are sought from, and then held in the highest of regard. With several generations of one family all co-habiting, co-parenting and frequently co-feasting on magnificent cultural banquets under one, usually fairly large, co-roof!
All the time sharing and caring galore for beloved Nonnie and Poppa – it’s just the way it is; the way it always has been. And not once are the words ‘Nursing Home’ or ‘Aged-Care facility’ considered… nor even dared be mentioned.
You look after your own and it’s a beautiful thing.
Becoming OLD and ‘being elderly’ as an Australian however, has up ’til recent times, been a whole different kettle of fish!
Not that we don’t care about the older adults in our lives (admittedly though, there’d be little chance of any feet-touching action)… and it’s not that we don’t WANT to look after dear old Mum & Dad when they can no longer manage on their own.
But with our frantic materialistic lifestyles, we fair dinkum Aussies barely have time to look after the kids, let alone take on care and responsibility of ‘The Olds’ as well. Having to sometimes move away from our home-towns to go where the money is (the hole for a new swimming pool won’t dig itself, you know) we abandon our ageing parents as we strive for bigger and better.
The once close-knit family dynamic is left in tatters and sadly, as our children grow up with little or no interaction with their grandparents (no, Skype doesn’t really count)… it means even less understanding of the issues older people face existing in today’s frenzied modern world.
BUT, thanks to an outstanding healthcare system and an unprecedented change (albeit, gradual) in attitudes toward ageing in general, there is a revolutionary new emphasis on embracing one’s Golden Years. Older generations can now look forward to a potentially long, joyful and productive retirement with due diligence placed on seniors having rights, dignity and an invigorating abundance of empowerment HOORAY!
Yet, should we worry that our youth think it acceptable to treat mature adults in a dismissive and disparaging way?
That our seniors, because they are retired from the workforce and are all (supposedly) sitting about idle and ‘being frail’, clearly can’t have creditable opinions and therefore have little to contribute to society anymore?
Well, today… as I stood waiting in the checkout queue of a large Electrical, IT & Furniture store (can we say Harvey Norman out loud?) I discovered all might not be as hopeless as we once might have presumed.
Amid the din and techno-bustle, I watched as a man of advanced years with abundant white hair and rosy cheeks, walked tentatively into the shop… only to come to an abrupt halt. I knew immediately what would most surely be going through this nervous bloke’s mind.
“Crikey… where do I start?”
To be honest it was pretty similar to what I’d thought myself when I’d charged in earlier. Being one of these enormous retail outlets it’s always daunting until you get your bearings, as well we know.
Thankfully when I’d arrived, I was greeted immediately by an efficient middle-aged-ish customer services lady labelled ‘Brenda’, who duly pointed me in the required direction thereby saving me from a lot of time-wastery and roaming about.
Brenda, however, was noticeably absent in coming to the aid of this gentleman.
Still hovering in her official capacity at the entrance, directing customers, dispatching them off to the relevant departments… I watched as she quite literally favoured others coming in, over helping him.
And STILL he stood there…
Was she blind? How could she not see him? Surely, she wasn’t outright ignoring this lovely misplaced chap on purpose? For goodness sake… it was like he was The Invisible Man!
OK, so being that I work in Aged-Care and am used to attending to the whims of my clients on a daily basis, you might argue that perhaps I’m just overly-sensitive to this type of carry-on.
Call it what you like, NEGLECT IS STILL NEGLECT!
And regardless of age, it was just wrong that anybody should be treated in such a blatantly disrespectful manner. Such a calm unassuming man… on behalf of all the rotten Brendas out there, I felt utterly pissed off ashamed.
By this stage, too, the poor guy was really getting jostled about. Customers were pushing past him with their large parcels and important busy lives. Finally, as I contemplated the ridiculous logistics of leap-frogging over the counter to go help this now visibly shaken senior, low and behold…a zippy young shop assistant guy appeared.
I braced myself, dreading what awfulness might come from this young whipper-snapper’s mouth. Would there be yet more disinterest, some degrading comments… in an equally demeaning and patronising tone?
Or perhaps a reprimand for causing congestion on the shop floor? Indeed, if Big Bad Brenda had trained him – he was doomed!
Blow me down, ‘Arden’ (as per name badge), turned out to be the loveliest, most patient and caring lad you could ever have wished for! Upon touching the old boy gently on his arm so as not to give him a fright, Arden tactfully drew him away from the main thoroughfare and into the safety of the near-empty kitchen appliance aisle.
Looking him right in the eyes and talking directly to him, Arden was giving this most relieved pensioner his fabulously full attention! And after asking how ‘Sir’ was, suggested that he might like to sit down?
Oh, it was just wonderful to see – I could have cried!
And as I watched them chatting away together and joking about last weekend’s woeful football results… I felt my faith in humanity (and young peeps everywhere) had been restored.
Hooray for you, Arden! Maybe there’s hope for us all yet.
Indeed, if Mr Ghandi had been watching on from behind the row of chrome toasters and absurdly-priced food mixers, I reckon without question, he would have been most peacefully and passively… chuffed to bits!
One of my fondest childhood memories is of our grandparents seeing us off, waving goodbye from their front porch. Smiling contentedly, and without fail at each and every departure time, they’d take up position watching and waving at the top of the steps.
Whether it be the big Sunday family lunch gathering or just a random quick visit to drop off groceries or pick up a bag of lemons from grandad’s garden – it didn’t matter the reason for the visit or how long we were there. Waving us off was just one of those heart-felt routines that our grandparents dutifully undertook when it came time to seal the deal and bid us farewell.
Of course, that’s after the obligatory round of goodbye kisses, hugs and hair ruffling that seemed to go on forever, before we finally got to bundle ourselves into the car for the ride home.
And I remember too, if we turned around at any stage during our exit, as mum or dad manoeuvred the car down the driveway, that they would still be stood there, happily waving and watching for our return waves through the back window.
Then, as we began slowly to pull away out of view, they’d both sing out in perfect unison:
“Bye, bye….LOVE YOU!”
I sometimes wondered, after we had gone, how long they might have remained standing there! Waving away… clinging on to happy times in a now empty front garden.
Lovely too, was that even after the granddads were gone, both my grandmothers continued the waving tradition alone, never missing a beat. As if this treasured practice was integral to keeping the family unit bound and sacred forever.
I was too young to realise then, but it was indeed likely that this cherished ritual be the final thrust in my grandparent’s campaign to squeeze out as much valuable ‘together’ time as they possibly could.
I wish now, in hindsight, that I had waved back a lot, lot harder.
But, as it delightfully turns out, my grandparents were not the only ‘wavers’ I would ever have the pleasure of!
Thanks to my recent adventures in Aged-Care where I work with older adults in their own homes… I have been fortunate to encounter clients on my travels who also conduct a similar performance when it’s time to say goodbye.
In fact, possibly as a ploy to prolong my visit, some of my clients even go so far as to walk me right out to my car! I guess old habits die hard and chatting all the way, we discuss the cat’s weepy eye, admire the Azaleas and analyse the weather as we go.
Unfortunately, for some of my less sprightly clients who have forgotten that their mobility is not as reliable as it once was, I then have to turn round and walk (or wheel) them back inside again! The thought of driving off and leaving a wobbly pensioner on the footpath clinging to their letterbox just doesn’t bear thinking about! So, I don’t mind in the slightest having to spend a bit more time escorting them back to their front doors again.
Besides, it’s a nice little moment that I know will bring a significant amount of joy to someone else’s day. And to be honest, I consider it a compliment that it feels so comfortable for them to think me wave-worthy in the first place.
“Off we go… let’s get you back inside again, Mr Gadabout!”
Why only today, one of my regular ladies, Florence, whom I’ve worked with for a couple of years now, makes it her business to accompany me out onto her front verandah where she likes to wait, waving goodbye as I hop into my car.
Having observed Flo become increasingly more and more absent-minded (her symptoms recently diagnosed ‘most likely’ as Dementia), to her it’s the most natural thing in the world to see me off. The same as she would a visit from any close friend or family member – except that I am neither.
“I’ll see you off, dear. And then I’ll put Walt’s dinner on”.
In my rear-view mirror I see the the nonchalant Florence surveying the rosebushes for mottled leaves as she continues her well-rehearsed wave, leaning on the rail for support and so she stays in my sights. Then, just as I reach the end of her drive and I do my return wave back, she looks up at that last second when I’ve straightened up and am about to disappear from her view.
Then, a final flourish with her wrist finishes it all off!
And it’s funny… as I pause for a brief moment to watch her go back inside to peel the spuds for her husband Walter (who actually died 12 years ago), I’m struck with nostalgic thoughts of warm childhood family times and the ghosts of ‘wavers’ past.
So unexpected are the feelings in fact, that I find I have to stop myself from the involuntary urge to call out a big cheery “Bye-bye….LOVE YOU!”
Every time I visit 82-year old Ruth Cuddlepot I read this poem.
She has it up on a wall in her kitchen near the toaster, just above the bench. I know it by heart now because it’s so hard to miss and I stand there every Wednesday reading it (at least three times over) – while I’m waiting for her crumpets to pop!
It’s a short, but popular verse and most experienced carers have encountered it on their travels in and around the Aged-Care industry. To be honest, I always end up feel annoyed after I’ve read it because as far as describing the hopelessness and grim reality of Alzheimer’s disease – it’s pretty spot on.
It is also completely SAD.
So, the story goes that back in her day, Ruth Cuddlepot forged for herself (and prospered for many years in) an outstanding career as a Headmistress in some posh private school for boys – at the time the only woman on record to obtain such a role. She never married, didn’t have children and had no real family to speak of. Therefore, a very well-to-do Ruth had mountains of cash and high-performing investments squared nicely away for that one ‘rainy day’ when she just might need it.
That drab, dreary, drizzly day came a few years back when Ruth received the official crushing diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Being the no-nonsense insightful person that she was however, Ruth decided immediately that she would face her destiny head-on and set herself up for the inevitable; for when she could no longer work or take care of herself.
Indeed, there would be NO nursing home for Principal Ruth Cuddlepot!
Without wallowing in self-pity and in typical Headmistress fashion, Ruth seized control to ensure her affairs were arranged down to the very teensiest detail. The health services, neurologists, an endless supply of support workers and the most fastidious fleet of solicitors were all put in place so Ruth could be completely looked after and cared for IN HER OWN HOME.
No matter what.
She knew her condition would deteriorate; that her memory would crumble, and she would eventually “lose my marbles completely!” Apparently, that’s how Ruth used to brazenly declare it, although I didn’t know her then and have relied on verbal reports from other carers to fill me in on all the background reading.
Needless to say, she was one very smart woman. Although, by the time I had the pleasure of caring for the well-respected Ruth Cuddlepot, she was no longer the organised and efficient educator I had been told she once was.
Ruth had, instead, evolved into ‘Ruthie’.
And thanks to the personality-morphing Alzheimer’s, Ruthie had become a frail, yet openly happy and affectionate elderly woman…. WHO LOVED TO HUG!
Even when her speech faltered, Ruthie could at least continue to communicate with a nice big welcoming embrace whenever I arrived for my shift. I looked forward to it in fact!
There she would be, perched in her favourite place on a big comfy chair in front of her enormous lounge room windows. The spot where she had the wonderful view of her ever-changing garden, the birds flying by to say hello… and where she could keep a watchful eye out for her next visitor whom she could throw her arms around and give a great big hearty squeeeeze to!
Really if it wasn’t so heart-breaking, it would be lovely.
Recently though, Ruthie had started calling me Wendy.
Which is fine by me, because you can imagine it happens a lot in this line of work (I’m also known as Debbie, Louise and Margie with some of my other cognitively-challenged clients). Let’s face it, remembering each of your carers’ name, rank and serial numbers is understandably not high on the priority list for some seniors.
Especially when they no longer know their OWN name!
I knew something had started to change in Ruthie when one day – the hugs stopped. And another cruel stage of the Alzheimer’s curse set in… Ruthie Cuddlepot started to become aggressive.
Without much warning her moods became erratic and it eventuated that Ruthie couldn’t STAND to be touched. Not even a handshake or a gentle pat on the shoulder. You just wouldn’t dare in case she would flare up and start screaming and punching the air (or anything else within proximity) in what appeared to be the ultimate frustration within Ruthie’s muddled-up mind.
This most heartless and indiscriminate Dementia had finally taken hold of her … it has been just awful to watch.
Finally, after accusations that Ruthie had started slapping and pushing her carers, we were told there was a serious incident last week where she had to be whisked away by ambulance and sedated in hospital.
Quite honestly, it became apparent to all, that they didnt know WHAT to do with her!
After all Ruth’s organising, having purposely prepared herself and her future to remain forever being tended to in her own home by an army of paid care-working bees and service providers, it now seemed this was no longer a viable option.
I wonder now looking back, how Ruthie could have possibly planned for this final gloom-ridden stage of her illness?
Perhaps she’d anticipated that by this late phase: 1) she wouldn’t know where she was, and 2) she wouldn’t care? I hoped so for her sake.
The poem was right, and the best of Ruth had gone. And sadly yes, we had failed in standing beside her. Basically, it had become too unsafe to do so! Poor Ruthie had become a danger not only to herself, but to everyone else as well. And if a support worker is under any threat whilst looking after a client in in their home, then the people in charge needed to modify to an alternative arrangement.
I was informed only today that the once proud and brilliant Ruth Cuddlepot had been relocated ‘indefinitely’ into a High Care nursing home facility.
Just like the poem had foretold she was now sad and sick and lost. Her beautiful forward-thinking mind now full-to-capacity on sensory-depriving medication to keep her comatose and manageable (for her own protection, we were told).
I have deliberated greatly about going to visit Ruthie but honestly, what would be the point? And as harsh and as self-serving as might sound – I don’t think I could bear it.
The worst part is finding out she doesn’t even have a window.
Every day, our delightful neighbour Lettie-from-across-the-way, walks outside her front door, slowly down the steps and across the driveway to collect her newspaper from wherever it has landed on her front lawn. It’s usually in the same spot every morning, give or take, depending if the delivery boy gets his projectile right and doesn’t instead end up riding his bike into the bushes!
(Three years on, you’d think he’d have this sorted by now).
On her way back towards the house, with mission accomplished and with paper stuffed purposefully under the wing of her arm, Lettie then likes to pause and glance over the neighbourhood. She pretends to pick a bit of dead something off the Hydrangea bush at the bottom of her steps, then ambles cautiously back inside to (most likely) put her feet up from a job well done.
But it’s just painstaking to see!
Nearing 94-years old, living alone and with seriously swollen ankles from kidney disease, ‘a bit of the diabetes’ and being almost totally blind thanks to advanced macular degeneration, Lettie has slowed down significantly in the last couple of years.
We know this because we have quite literally witnessed the progressive decline in Lettie’s mobility thanks to our lounge room windows facing directly opposite hers.
Needless to say, you can pretty much set your clock to Lettie’s daily paper-pick-up ritual. Unfolding before us almost like a big-screen movie, we get to watch all Lettie’s comings and goings – as she does ours. Which is actually kind of nice being that it offers a warm fuzzy familiar feeling to let you know all is right with the world.
But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch!
“Once I’ve had my weeties and taken all my tablets, it’s time to do the morning dash!”
Ummm, less of a DASH… more of an action replay stuck in serious slow-motion?! Thankfully, Lettie enjoys joking that it takes her sooooo long and that tomorrow morning she’s thinking about packing a picnic lunch and making a day of it.
“I’ve got all day – may’s well take a cream bun and enjoy myself at the half-way mark!”
Awkwardly steering her wheelie-walker to the top of the steps, our hearts are in our mouths as her front wheels teeter close to the porch edge. Applying the brakes, just in the nick of time, Lettie then grapples her way down the steps in lunging fashion, by means of the metal railing installed by her family a few years back.
She then shuffles… barely lifting her puffy, slippered feet… across the driveway to the edge of the lawn where she then stops, statue-still with hands on hips, to peer at the grassy expanse before her.
Eventually, depending on the angle of the sun and the landing position of the newspaper on that particular day, Lettie is usually able to perceive enough colour contrast to make approximate visual contact with her printed prize.
Ah yes! There’s actual science involved, don’t you know?
However… if the paper has made touch-down on the driveway instead of the lawn, poor legally-blind Lettie has NO CHANCE of finding the thing!
As I guilefully explain to my pre-teen son, the grey-ness of the concrete doesn’t make the off-white coloured newspaper ‘pop’ like the bright green-ness of the grass does.
Lettie then ambles her way across the lawn and upon reaching her quest, snap-bends in half to scoop up the cellophane-sealed roll in a one-motion move. Turning stiffly, she then pauses to gaze at the street around her (more to have a rest than to actually ‘look’ at anything), before tottering her way back onto the driveway, then slowwwwwwly on towards the front steps.
It can be a good 20 minutes by the time Lettie has hauled herself up the steps to the security of her wheelie-walker at the front door, during which time I have hung out a load of washing, ironed the school uniforms, yelled at the kids and fed the cat!
My enthralled son can stand watching this senior’s snail-paced performance NO LONGER.
“Man! Can’t we just go pick it up for her, Mum?”
“Oh no, absolutely NOT, my child!”
Then, chuffed that I get to impart my Aged-Carer’s industry knowledge on somebody (anybody will do) I then proceed to explain that as long as Lettie is able to collect her newspaper for herself – then let her WE MUST.
And that regardless of Lettie’s diminished eyesight and her age-related health issues, it was important for Lettie, if she wanted to remain living independently in her own house, that she be able to do boring household chores such as this.
I also knew, from conversations with her daughter Sue, that Lettie had very little other physical activity going on in her day. Sue therefore felt it crucial that her mother be encouraged to continue this one daily routine, this one small piece of exertion, in order to keep blood flowing, muscles moving, her mind stimulated and hopefully result in a much better quality of life for Lettie all round.
For the meantime, Lettie could exist alone at home feeling good about herself and know that she was maintaining independence, her self-respect and the satisfaction that she still (mostly) had control over her own future.
And that’s a really super important thing when you’re an elderly person, as I explained to my son (who oddly, has always been quite fascinated with Lettie’s newspaper antics).
“But what does she want a paper for anyway… I thought she was BLIND????”
I remember at the time staring blankly at Junior aware that with this last line of inquiry, he had actually stated the ‘blindingly’ obvious. And as the wave of realisation washed over me… I thought it might be a good idea to give Sue a call for a bit of a chat.
“Nobody likes a smarty-pants, darling. Go let the cat out!”
Getting our Kids Skilled-Up in the Art of Conversation
It must be wonderful knowing that your teenage son or daughter is mature enough to hold an ACTUAL conversation with your adult friends. Seeing them chat away freely when introduced; radiating confidence galore when asked if they are enjoying their new high school, all the time maintaining solid eye contact and without a dot of embarrassment or discomfort.
Whilst you stand alongside, glowing with pride and marvelling at what clearly must be some pretty bloody fabulous parenting skills, thank you very much!
Today I discovered that my 13-year old son did not possess such ability.
Not even close, in fact.
As a mum who thought she’d had it all covered: good manners, gracious conduct, appropriate behaviour and the biggie ‘respect for others’… it came as a rude slap in the chops, as I watched Junior’s social skills crumble and turn totally to mush.
Our visit this morning was to a medical centre, thanks to my son’s recent sporting injury (long story, don’t ask) for follow-up x-rays and to be given the all clear to have the annoying brace on his arm removed.
An ideal location to meet and engage in friendly banter with seniors, it’s common knowledge in aged-care circles, that a doctor’s waiting room is ‘top of the pops’ to test even the most experienced of gasbags!
It was as we sat bored waiting for our turn, when an older smartly-dressed man with walking stick and twinkly eyes, leaned over to my son and asked in a fairly loud tone (hearing issues, obviously), what had he done to himself?
I continued reading my mag, confident that Chatterbox Charlie (as he is known at home and at school), would be equally as open and responsive. The two of them would yak away in ‘blokey’ fashion and by the time we left they’d be best of buddies, possibly even a firm handshake farewell and promises to meet for tea and cake one day soon.
But alas, what was this?
Instead, no! Junior was beside himself! Turning sharply to look at me, his face strained in terror… he was actually pleading me with his eyes, as if to say, “Oh god, please Mum, SAVE ME!”
Mortified, with the realisation that my beloved was indeed a complete social flop after all, I attempted to verbally prompt him so he could explain to the nice inquiring man how he had sprained his arm in a game of football.
The old guy continued on, jokingly encouraging my son to join in.
“I thought you’re supposed to use your leg to kick the footy – not your arm!”
As Junior turned bright red, awkwardly squeaking out some sort of inaudible response (all the time staring down at the floor, clearly wishing the tiles would open up and pull him down into the deep, dark depths of the earth where no scary old dudes could ever find him)… it dawned on me that some people might actually find conversation with an elderly person intimidating.
Especially those they hadn’t met before. And I get that.
Growing up as a painfully shy teen, I remember myself, the feeling of horror when an adult would talk to me – especially one I didn’t know well. The worry of not knowing what to say, or sounding silly if I did say something, or being judged and thought an idiot. It was cause for real anxiety!
In lieu of that thought, I decided my son needed a lesson in the art of conversation, STAT!
Time for me to earn that Mother of the Year badge and get him properly prepped and trained up on some good old-fashioned Communication Skills 101.
Yes, I would be doing this for ME (and my shattered ego), but more significantly, I was doing it for my soppy, socially inept son. It was imperative that in today’s frantic and fiercely competitive world, that he be an efficient communicator; to gain the advantage over his peers by being able to competently talk and earn respect from the older people in his life.
To impress the pants off his teachers, his footy coach or even his own grandparents by engaging them in some light, but thoughtful bit of chit-chat for goodness sake!
And at the same time, emphasise to my son that it didn’t matter what age a person was. That all it took was a little friendliness and a good dollop of empathy to show kindness towards another human being – and to make them feel good. That many ageing adults spent days, sometimes weeks sitting alone in their homes, desperate for company and to feel part of society and in touch with others in their community.
Could he even imagine what that must be like?
So, while I laughed and chatted to my newest dear friend happily sitting alongside us; about the weather, his dreadful arthritis and the outrageous price of petrol, I felt Junior watching on taking it all in. I wasn’t completely daft though; I knew in reality my son’s interest would be only fleeting and that soon enough he’d tune out, switch on his iPod and go back to mindlessly picking at the tag on his arm brace.
But blow me down, before you could ask ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ my amazing little man surprised us all as he turned to the lovely white-haired lady sitting on the other side of him.
Then, without missing a beat, smiling and looking her straight in the eye, in a big clear voice said, “Hello, are you having a nice day today?” To which her reply was “Why yes, thank you, dear… and how nice of you to ask!”
My faith restored, watching the two of them chatting comfortably, I nearly leapt out of my chair with the excitement of it all! My son was a fantastic super star after all!
Unfortunately, I don’t think the poor little mite will dare go anywhere in public with his raving, lunatic mother again. Possibly the cheering out loud and the ‘high five-ing’ with the receptionist were a little over the top, I’m not sure… what do you think?
Before we go scoffing and rolling our eyes too loudly when it comes to mustering the patience for showing an ageing parent how to “logger” themselves onto a recently erected PC, iPad or tablet device, consider this:
—–> Your mother taught you how to hold a spoon, wipe your bot-bot and count to ten.
Did she poke fun at you then?
Or, when a grandparent who is desperately trying to master the art of “this emailer caper” just so she can stay in touch with her grandkids (yes, your children)… because nobody writes letters anymore and rather than being left behind and feeling cut-off from her family, she is at least making the effort to come to grips with all this “technical gadgetry” even though it is completely foreign, slightly intimidating and it just feels so damned impersonal to her.
And isn’t it just gorgeous (we try not to patronise) when she announces how mod and trendy she must be when she FINALLY manages to “pop off an email” to her darling 10 year old grandson, Max. It’s only taken her most of a day but she persevered and got there in the end.
Although, whether or not little Maxi actually received the email is a different story!
“Umm, did I push SEND… “
“Or was that the SAVE button… “
“Is there a way of getting it to come back???”
And then now that she’s so proficient and computer savvy, she even remembers to sign off with “LOL from Grandma” just for effect… because that’s Lots of Love, naturally!
You have to admire her for being so plucky and at least giving it a go, don’t you?
“Oh, Maxi will be SO impressed to see how his grandmother knows “dot com stuff!”
More and more it seems I’m getting asked by some very frowny-faced clients when I arrive at their homes, if I could please have a look at their jammed-up, unresponsive computers or merely to explain what “that funny noise” means and how “it only started making it after that dreadful storm yesterday”.
“Do you think perhaps some water got into the wiring, Dollie?”
That the “inter-web must be broken” or “I think I’ve broken Google” after accidentally deleting all the desktop icons. Or asking if one needed to locate an ‘App’ i order to bring up the local bus timetable. Or wondering why “my internet is so slow and it won’t let me start typing anything in”… only to discover one poor soul had inadvertently opened over 30 windows and had 14 tool bars running!!
“Would it be easier if I hopped on to ‘The Twitter’ instead, Dollie?”
In my experience (and being that it would be totally inhumane and nasty), there is no merit gained from sniggering into the face of an earnest older person who is already feeling inadequate. They understand and accept that all this new whizz-bang technology is completely over their head and that of course they know how ridiculous they must look to us younger smarty-pant types.
Instead, I sit down, and LISTEN to what they are trying to achieve and if it sounds like something basic (such as the ever-popular ‘not being turned on at the wall’), then I tactfully suggest we try giving the switch a flick and see how that goes.
“Oh, it happens all the time, Mrs Terrabyte, no need to feel embarrassed. In fact, I sometimes do the same thing myself!”
And then we laugh. Until she reveals for the life of her she can’t remember what her wretched password is… and could she use mine instead?
So here’s a cute little poem I found “on the line” that suits the occasion and ends very nicely too.
See what I mean – CUTE!
Of course in real life, we would never wish to lose dear ol’ Grannie into the deep dark depths of the cyberspace abyss (or have her gobbled up by a worm) in a million years.
Who else is gonna tell us what cupboard she hides the ‘cookies’ in… tee hee!!
Really, it’s of little surprise that many of the older adults I visit in their homes, enjoy listening to their radios.
More specifically, those with deteriorating vision or being that they might be frail or unwell (with mobility often compromised), they can find themselves in their late ‘golden years’, no longer able to indulge in traditional media entertainment pleasures the rest of us hipsters take for granted.
Vices such as watching television, reading a good book or wallowing for half a day with toast & coffee over the Sunday paper is simply no longer an option.
Popping on the ‘wireless’ therefore makes perfect sense!
Not that they are missing much, surely? It seems telly these days is unrelenting with it’s bombardment of rubbish ‘reality’ shows targeted solely towards the younger more impressionable audience, thereby leaving bewildered seniors often unable to relate and feeling overwhelmed at such bad taste and a definite absence of depth.
Instead, having a nice string of yesteryear tunes crooning away on the radiogram in the front room, works beautifully to lift sullen moods and put some zing into a lonely or sometimes socially isolated pensioner’s day. Memories of happy, more sprightly-er times are jogged by meaningful classics, as well as offering the much needed ‘company’ my clients might now be lacking.
“Hearing Vera Lynn always reminds me of my Edith and the times we used to sit in the back of the truck on our way to the dance at the town hall. Drinking home-made cider we’d nicked from my dad’s basement… we felt sooo naughty”
“…but naughty in a good way, Dollie!”
Talkback radio too, is ideal for supporting a forlorn or neglected senior through long periods of solitude and that despairing, yet understandable need for human interaction. They get to stay fully up to speed with the latest news and current affairs of the nation (usually in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep) plus share opinions and views with people of the same ilk.
“And, it’s great fun arguing the next day with Mavis and Lettie about the previous night’s topic. Can really get the blood churning – because I’m always RIGHT of course!”
Similarly, for some of my older gents who adore (and can’t live without) their daily infusion of Sport. Sadly though, thanks to medical conditions and the sheer exhaustion of it all, many have had to give up attending actual LIVE football games or cricket matches.
To quote dear old 97-year old Bert with ‘a gammy leg and both me dicky knees’:
“The logistics alone would just about kill me, Dollie!”
Instead, he attaches himself to his little black transistor (circa 1972) via a pair of well-used nicotine-stained earplugs and lies back in his armchair to bellow at “that frigging umpire” until he nods off with the excitement of it all.
I have to say now (in a big loud voice), earplugs or headphones are a superbly handy device for a lot of the hearing-impaired people I come across. Needless to say, they’re also a godsend for a spouse (or a budgerigar) who otherwise gets stuck tolerating the din!
“Jeee-zuz, Ref…my wife’s gotten pregnant from less contact than that!”
However… as marvellous and New-Age as all that is, I have other dear clients whom I help in their home, who can’t manage their broadcast transmissions to save themselves!
And it doesn’t matter how ludicrously large the knobs on their radios are, or how basic the design or how seemingly straightforward the technology is to operate… THEY WILL STILL FIND A WAY TO STUFF UP THE SETTINGS!
Today for example, I arrived at 87-year old Bill Whistley’s home and as I walked up the path, I was hit with an adorable Guns & Roses melody ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ booming off the Richter scale and making the crockery in Bill’s glass cabinet rattle.
“Blimmen ‘eck, I’ve tried fiddling with it, Dollie… but since I started my new pills, I’ve lost the feeling in my hands a bit. Can’t seem to land it on anything except THAT goddam racket.”
And in all the fluster, poor ol’ Bill decided to deal with the ear-splitting screams of Axel Rose the only way he knew how – by shutting all the doors and stowing himself away in his spare room. It never occurred to him to just switch his radio off at the wall!
“Oh, thank Heavens you’ve ended the wickedness, Dollie!”
Yet Bill is not alone with this terror of the airwaves! I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve walked into my client’s homes (I give up knocking as there’s literally NO CHANCE they can hear me) to find a brilliant selection of Hard Rock or Heavy Metal booming from within.
Dollie to the rescue – check out some of these pearlers!
“My house is so quiet during the daytime… it’s just nice to have something break the silence. Mind you, be good if it were something I could whistle to”
(You mean you CAN’T whistle to Spiderbaits’ toe-tapping version of ‘Black Betty’?)
“Oh the damn thing has a mind of its own. I set it on a nice bit of Sinatra but the next day it’s somehow flicked itself over and I’m left with that lot screeching at me!”
(Alice Cooper, anyone?)
“Oh is it, Dollie? I hadn’t noticed… I thought I was listening to Roger Whittaker!”
(‘Eye of the Tiger’… good for what ails ya)
“My son will be here later, I thought I’d leave it for him to sort out. Didn’t want to meddle in case I broke something. Plus it means I get to see him more often”
(Led Zeppelin at brekky time for a ‘Whole Lotta Love’)
“To be honest, Dollie… I’m deaf as a post so ANY noise is good”
(Just static was ‘playing’ in this lovely lady’s living room – LOUDLY)
“What’s FM then? I thought it said ‘AM’ and ‘PM’. So I’ve been switching the dial once I’ve had my lunch, over to the ‘PM’ for the afternoon session. Wondered why the tunes suddenly got a bit rowdy!”
(Let’s just hope he doesn’t actually end up “Burning Down the House’)
“It’s been begging for a fight all morning… I’d turn the dam contraption off if I knew how!”
(Yes, ‘Sexual Healing’ – always good for a bit of rough’n’tumble)
“Bloody things been making that racket since I dropped it down the back of the bed/in the sink/onto the cat…”
(who DIDN’T get their kids to sleep with that lovely ‘Smoke on the Water’ lullaby?)
Let’s face it, as some smarty-pants from somewhere once said:
“RADIO: It’s like TV, only the pictures are better”.
Which is all very well and good – but it doesn’t really explain why I seem to be forever having to adjust my clients’ knobs !!!
Scams Against the Elderly are Going Unchecked in Our Suburbs
Too hard to prove!
Too sleazy to catch!
Leaving victims too embarrassed & too ashamed to report it!
Dear ‘Tom’ the Tree Man,
Firstly, thank you for kindly offering your Tree-felling services at the home of an elderly client of mine, Mrs Maria Popalotova, approximately six months ago.
Lovely Maria is a proud but humble, 89-year old Bulgarian-born lady who, although substantially vision-impaired, still lives alone in her large family home, stews jars of fruit (picked from her very own garden) and as the neighbours can testify – sings soprano in FULL voice whilst doing the housework chores. Suffering arthritis and prone to the odd fall (understandable when you’re officially legally blind), Maria is still mostly independent and in damn good nick for a mature girl.
Somehow, Tom, I suspect you may already have known some of this at the time?
In fact, Maria remarked to me not long after meeting you, that it was uncanny when you turned up on her doorstep one day, out of the blue, like you did. Straight after that huge storm we had; the one where horrific winds caused such massive destruction in her suburb.
Oh, what a godsend you were, Tom!
How else could Maria ever have realised the danger she was in with that large eucalyptus tree in her backyard leaning so perilously close to her bedroom window?
And, as you so earnestly advised her, it would only take one more big wind – and it could literally DESTROY HER ENTIRE HOUSE, didn’t you say, Tom? Crikey, Tom… you told Maria that THIS would happen:
And, therefore, it was imperative for Maria’s own safety, as you told her at the time, that the tree be removed IMMEDIATELY.
Oh, and what luck it was, Tom… that Maria had all that cash hidden away on the ledge above the kitchen stove, in her little secret teapot… the pretty white one with the pansies on it. Coincidentally, the precise amount you required to start the job, Tom – exactly $2000. What luck!
And a BARGAIN, you said, considering how the now terrified Maria’s life could be at stake if the teetering tree wasn’t removed by Friday.Why, it was pittance, really.
As you said, Tom, it would be foolish (and very “un-Australian”) NOT to pay you!And so she paid you willingly, Tom, because you were just so caring and concerned for her wellbeing.
Which is why Maria understood completely when you ever-so-politely insisted, that you have the cash up front to buy materials NOW.
IT WAS BECAUSE YOU CARED, TOM!
To be honest, finding people that actually do ‘care’ as much as you do, Tom, is pretty thin on the ground these days. Especially after hearing all these dreadful stories about elderly people being scammed by all sorts of dodgy tradesmen and fake utility servicemen.
Innocent elders who are conned out of money that they’ve saved up during their working lives; nest-eggs for retirement enabling them to enjoy their golden years; or just money set aside for increased medical costs from potential health issues associated with ageing.
And then there’s the appalling fraudsters, the lowest of the low, who just randomly turn up at people’s doors, unscrupulously offering so-called urgent maintenance of phone, gas or power lines.
Because nobody DARES mess with a potentially broken one of these.
As a scare tactic – IT’S PERFECT!
Then there’s the scoundrels posing as contractors who scope out neighbourhoods, watching for lonely and vulnerable older adults who, often desperate for company, are more than happy to believe the “nice man” at their front door.
And that these ‘necessary’ property repairs, such as broken roof tiles, brickwork, cracked concrete paths, driveways or garden maintenance – are absolutely genuine.
Come to think of it, Tom, a bit like the work you offered to do for Maria, wasn’t it?
It’s actually quite sad (and scary) to think that innocent senior citizens living alone are such easy targets to these con artists, merely because they choose to TRUST people.
Such a nasty world out there, Tom, when you think about it… to know that someone could sink that low?
And I’m sure it wasn’t your fault you were delayed, Tom.
As Maria said, you probably had a lot of other work in the area that needed doing, too. In fact, it was only a few weeks back when she said she thought you would return any day now. That you and your little unmarked yellow van would pull into her driveway with all the special equipment (that she paid for) to get that pesky tree down before it did any major damage.
SHE STUCK BY YOU, TOM!
Even when the contact details on your most professional-looking business card came back with ‘number not in service’…. she still had faith that you’d honour your word. Maria actually worried about you, Tom, and she hoped that nothing bad had happened to you.
Isn’t that sweet?
Funny thing about the big allegedly ‘dangerous’ gumtree, and perhaps you were looking at it from the wrong angle, Tom? But a man from the council came to check it out the other day and confirmed that it could never have been a threat to Maria’s home. Even if it did fall over – it just wasn’t big enough!
Sadly, Tom, in the last month or so, I have noticed a change in dear Maria. She is so much quieter than she used to be; she seems fearful and she’s lost a lot of her confidence and now relies on outside help with her daily routine more than she ever used to.
It’s painful to watch her become this way, Tom – almost as if she has given up on, well… PEOPLE?
Definitely hard to believe she’s the same bubbly lady who once sang (with gusto!) in the shower, bottled her own nectarines and enjoyed social bus trip outings with the local ‘Senior Citz’ club.
Instead she prefers to just stay at home alone. And just sit.
Her family now worry because Maria has become so frail and unwell that she can clearly no longer cope by herself.
Anyway, wherever you are, Tom… thanks so much again for all you’ve done. I heard only last Friday, that Maria’s home had been sold and she has since been re-located into an aged-care facility situated miles away from the life and the people she once knew and loved.
So in the meantime, one question… sorry, Tom. I know you’re such a busy and important man and all…
Would you mind if some devious sleaze-ball did this to YOUR dear old Mum?!?!
I’ve been having some interesting discussions with my clients lately and it’s all about one of my fave topics – FOOD.
In particular, are the seniors who’ve realised it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the presence of all the bizarre sounding grains or oddly-shaped fruit ‘n’ veg on trend and brazenly on display at the supermarkets nowadays.
Oh, I see them… with elbows leaned furtively on shopping carts they drift nonchalantly down the aisles, the majority with little idea what these new species are, what they DO… or how to even peel one. Suffice to say, there’s little chance they’ll be cooking with one of these natural wonders any time soon. But that’s not to say they can’t!
Most recent of the veg-du-jour would be Kale, Pomegranate, Avocado (or the smashing of) and the phenomena known as Quinoa (no, Mrs Smith, it’s pronounced “keen-wah”) which seem to be causing the most angst among my sceptical over-80’s mob.
Advised by their GPs or concerned family members (and splashed all over the lifestyle mags)… that these peculiar so-called ‘Superfoods’ are packed full of disease-fighting goodies. And that by consuming these wondrous beauties, seniors can decrease the probability of developing chronic illness, rehabilitate faster if they do, and subsequently, increase their chances of living much longer good quality lives.
Which got me thinking that not only is it Technology that an older adult is pressured to install, understand and hopefully utilise in today’s frantically progressive world…
… it’s also about what we EAT.
Having grown up in arguably more frugal times (where food just wasn’t permitted to be the obsession that it is now), it’s understandable why the mature-ager might find some of the latest meal trends confusing and intimidating. People are living for longer that’s true, but it’s a scientific fact that age-related health issues such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease (conditions that would have once knocked you off in your 60’s) are now being managed more efficiently, purely by what we stick in our mouths.
Unfortunately along the way… food over-sensitivity, allergies and intolerances have also become commonplace and it’s been a huge learning curve for many ‘old-school’ folk to not only embrace the modern ideals toward the food they eat, but to accept that their own health may be in jeopardy if they don’t.
Noticeable, too, are the strange codes added to the selections on the menus of our favourite restaurants. Shown as GF, LF or V for example, these nifty symbols offer the diner-outer all sorts of solutions to their dickey dietary dilemmas. Although this may baffle some who might feel it’s easier to trust the Gods, close their eyes and just order a Vine-Ripened Pachino Tomato, Roasted Bell Capsicum & Basil Pesto Linguiniwith Pine Nuts & lightly-fried Zucchini flower, and a Caprese Quinoa & Almond Saladon the side… rather than risk looking a fool by enquiring about it first.
“No such thing as a Nut Allergy when we were kids. Oh, except when I first met my Douggie at the school dance – he was NUTTY alright!”
“How can being a Vegetarian be good for you? Eating too many greens… GIVES ME THE SQUIRTS!”
“Special Dietary Requirement? That’s me making sure I have a wine with dinner!”
“Not sure about this ‘organic food’ thing… in my day, it was just called FOOD”
“Gluten-free, you say. So, I have to eat less glutes?!?!”
Not to mention all the latest cookbooks encouraging us to replace the tried-and-true ingredients of our classic recipes with slinkier, nutrient-laden alternatives. Gone are the days where a lump of meat (“whatever’s on special, dear”) is bunged into the oven in a layer of lard with a wheelbarrow-load of salt tipped over it to enhance flavour!
Instead, poor old Mum, has had to haul herself out of her lifelong culinary comfort zone to produce such delights as a zucchini & feta fritter, organic eggplant fries and get her head around long lanky limbs of broccolini… steamed for 23 seconds (no-more, no less) for her son’s pretty, but pedantic Vegan yoga-instructor fiancee.
No longer can she happily enjoy the sumptuous spitting of lamb chops as they fry mercilessly on the stove top as she did in ye olden days either. Ah no! They must be eased gently under the grill and then delicately dabbed at repeatedly with a roll of triple-ply paper towels to ensure every last dot of oil has been safely extracted.
BECAUSE, OH GOD, WE CAN’T GET FAT!
She then has to skill-up on the magic of the ‘shop and chop’ – buying, and then dicing great sprigfuls of fresh herbs, fancy-schmancy spices for wholesome homemade marinades (no additives, PLEASE!) in the quest to present modern adaptations of traditional feasts to her fussy grown-up family.
Which can be bloody hard work when Mama has a dicky knee, arthritic hands and poor eyesight!
But, as a carer on the go, I do find it exciting and hugely inspiring when some of my tentative, yet respectfully brave clients at least give it a go. Seizing this new ‘foodie’ adventure by it’s edible entrails and taking an active interest in managing their own health with all the exotic, albeit daunting-looking food choices they can now make.
And even more impressively – is the trendy COOKING techniques they’ve learnt to whip it all together!
One of my clients, for example, 90 year old Bert Walloven is the most gorgeous man who nearly fell to bits living on just boiled eggs, fish paste & water-crackers, after his wife died last year. However, he pulled himself up by his apron strings and found new vigour in teaching himself how to bake Banana Loaf in a posh bread-maker appliance he found at the back of ‘the wife’s’ pantry.
Every Tuesday afternoon when I visit Bert now, he insists I make time before I leave, for a compulsory taste-test of a slice of his latest creation. Ahh yes, any excuse for a cuppa and a chat! None of your plain boring stodge either – last week it was Pumpkin Bread with honey oat and cranberry chunks.
Interesting to note, I find the biggest motivator for my elders to climb aboard the Superfood train by including more fresh ingredients in their diet, is the possibility that it might lessen the chances of them developing Alzheimer’s disease. Whether that’s true or only slightly true-ish (and it can’t hurt)… it seems many seniors, terrified of losing brain function, will go to great lengths to prevent this from happening and do whatever it takes to maintain the health of their minds.
Indeed, it turns out that you CAN teach a dog of more advanced years new tricks! It merely depends on whether the old Golden Retriever in question is willing (and open-minded enough), to give the tricks a go!
We all feel nervous when it comes to trying new things – of course we do! A fear of failure, feeling unsafe and exposed, or the big one… looking silly or inept in front of others. And with this traditionalist Boomer generation, it’s understandable why they might stubbornly opt to stay with the mindset that they’ve already made it through the obstacles of life; they’ve come through ‘the War’ living on sausage meat and sawdust. They’ve acquired all the learning needed for survival so “there’s nothing more I need to know, thank you very much!”
A perspective that sadly means the ability to grow (and thrive) by learning new ‘tricks’ and becoming empowered from new lifestyle choices which might just allow people to not only live longer but live BETTER… gets lost in the despair and gloominess of ‘being old’.
Which, thankfully, is NOT the case for Bert and his Breadmaster 2000! Lovely Bert informs me his latest project is a Wholemeal Caramel, Apple & Quinoa Pecan Loaf. And “just for fun”, it’s also going to involve (winkity, wink)… A RUM SWIRL.