I recently traveled to Nebraska to visit my grandmother. After our visit in May, she had a stroke and my family moved her from her home to an assisted living home. While she is still highly functioning, the risks are too great for her to live alone.
She has a cute two bedroom apartment. I wanted to spend some one on one time with her so I left my family behind in Texas. The facility is amazing and I was pleased with her new quality of life. After spending the weekend with her and her new “neighbors,” I walked away with a few lessons and great reminders. This is what I discovered after staying in a assisted living home with Grams.
- EAT PROPORTIONATELY - I know this is a strange one. But in our glutenous world, the amount of food, what little of it there was, was just the right amount. It was refreshing to eat a meal, not feel over satiated, and walk away not having wasted.
- SAY HELLO - Everyone was friendly. From the residents, and more importantly, to the staff. Not once did I see someone’s face buried and distracted in a cell phone. Connections were being made in every moment.
- COUNT ON COMMUNITY- I have trouble with this one. It must be my nature, but I don’t like to ask for help. I feel like I’m inconveniencing someone when I do. After a short visit to my Grams’ home, which she still owns, it was discovered that the sprinklers were still on. Living in the north where it can freeze, the lines need to be drained for the winter. As we were driving back to her new home we saw her yard man painting a house. We stopped and asked him if he would take care of calling the sprinkler guy to come out and address the issue. And without question, he would have it taken care of. He didn’t have to make that extra phone call and make sure it was done, but he did and it left Grams with peace of mind knowing that it was done.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF NOW - One thing I observed was the pill lady, as she is fondly referred to as, dispensing medication all day long, to every person. I’m sure most of it is age related, but I couldn’t help but think that if I take care of myself now, perhaps I will be able to live a pill free life later.
- WEAR A CHINESE COOLIE HAT JUST BECAUSE - Several years ago Grams took a trip to China. It had always been her dream and she decided to do it solo. She is still proud of herself and talks about the trip often. One of the many trinkets she brought home were a couple of coolie hats. I am now the owner of one of them and the other she just brought from her house to the residence. She put it on her head and walked into the residence wearing it like a boss. Everyone commented on it, which I’m sure she loved. But what I got out of it was, don’t be afraid to be you. Just do it with pride.
- STAY YOU - All the woman were dressed. I mean at every meal, every outing, they had on colorful pant suits and sweaters. While Grams loves clothes and shopping she is still just a jeans and t-shirts kind of gal. She hasn’t changed despite the fact that all of her friends dress up a little more. It’s just who she is and it reminded me not to change just because everyone else is doing it. I am forever a jeans and t’s kind of girl.
- DON'T FORGET THE ONES THAT HAVE COME BEFORE - Oh the stories. The collective experiences are lifetimes of knowledge. I continually learned something new just by saying hello. (see #2)
- YOU ALWAYS FEEL PRETTY - It was Saturday morning and I had just come back from a six mile run. I was in workout gear, hair a mess and sweaty, and yet, the comments about my beauty were still exclaimed. All weekend, no matter what I thought I looked like, someone complimented me. It reminded me that we will never look as good as we do right NOW. So appreciate it.
- GO OUTSIDE - For so many of the residents they have limited mobility. Most of them never go outside unless they have to leave for a doctor appointment. I couldn’t imagine being so disconnected from the Earth. Take full advantage of being outside while you can.
- MAKE LIFE A GAME- It was snack time and seven woman, all with walkers, decided they could all get on the elevator to go down to the dining room. I’m fairly certain the elevator can hold exactly seven women with seven walkers. We met them on the first floor. When the door opened, laughter came rolling out of the elevators. Apparently, it took them a while to get the puzzle just right, and now one of them would have to come off the elevator with her walker backwards. They hand’t thought about the end result. They were certainly making the experience fun.
I am happy I made the trip. It was a technology free weekend that felt more connected than I have felt to others in a long time. I hope you all get to spend some time around older folks and take full advantage of what they have to offer.