I have learned so much since my own grandparents have died some 40 years ago. I would like to share with you some of the insights about what this generation goes through when they start moving towards the end of life. As a much younger person even though I am very close to being a senior myself, 60 is the new 40…Some thoughts are creeping in more than I’d like of what this will be like for me. Living in a 55+ community brings this to light even more.
When mom and dad passed about 10 years or so ago it was so much different than losing my grandparents because I value life and understand so much more than I did in my late 20’s. What this means is when my parents lost their parents I didn’t know how to relate to them. In fact, now looking back, my mother must have felt very much the way I do now missing her mom. My dad he was a mess after losing his father and I can understand why now as there was lots of unfinished business.
I want to share a story with you about a little old gal that lives next door to me. I would say she is pushing 90 years of age. She is either using a walker or her wheelchair and sometimes even using the wheelchair as her walker. The doors in my building are very heavy for an elder who has to maneuver wheelchairs and walkers. One day she was walking down the hallway at the same time as me. I asked where she was going. She said to take out her trash, which was on the wheelchair she was pushing. Up ahead there were 2 doors to maneuver. I said let me help you, she expressed that she’s got it and that God would be helping her. I still worried and knew she could use help.
When I was walking back from getting something out of my car, I could hear her struggling in the trash room which is dark and just awful for anyone let alone a woman who struggles with walking! I heard something crash and as she was bending down to pick it up, then she looked and saw me. I said to her that I would just hold the door open for her and that maybe God timed this so I could help her. She wasn’t going for that, she said that she didn’t like people observing her! Boom. There it was, her vulnerability and sadness because I am old now, maybe she felt a little shame me seeing her struggle. I left her there (that was very hard for me but I understood it).
About 4 to 5 days later I heard this faint knock on my door. It was early in the morning, this little faint voice said it is your neighbor. She apologized and said I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings the other day. Then she went on to tell me that ALL of her dearest friends are dead. She said God has blessed me, but I must keep moving and doing things for myself to keep going. I let her know it didn’t hurt my feelings, I shared that I understood. I told her what I did for a living and she said that I am something else!
Here is the thing that I know…I am getting old too, and I know my kids, my friends etc. will all want to help as I get older. My own mother would NEVER let me drive her even when she had breast cancer and was on a cocktail of drugs daily. It was terrifying to get in the car with her so I would be a back seat driver! When reading the list below think about how you might feel when these precious habits of independence are taken from our lives because we just can’t do it anymore no matter how hard we try:
- Having to be told to give up your license
- Losing personal space
- Losing friends
- Losing the ability to cook
- Losing the ability to walk
- Doing your own grocery shopping, I love going to my beloved Trader Joes.
- Taking a bath
- Realizing that if you do fall you can’t get up on your own
- Putting your pants on without holding onto something
- Actually dressing period, like buttoning buttons, putting something on over your head, tying shoes, styling one’s hair can be quite arduous for an elder
Here is a tip, it is important to ASK first with this generation. They can be a tough crowd, especially surviving many wars. World War II Vets and their spouses exemplify a standard of being strong and what we would call soldiering on.
What happened with my sweet neighbor to me was her saying I am still here! Let me do me and if I want your help I will ask. In your heart if you have a senior in your life who is holding onto their independence, read the list. This helps with compassion for where they are at in the journey and be patient with them because you would want that too.
Wishing you peace on the journey.