When you visit your loved one, do you ever take a look at any other residents? I mean really take a look. Or have these elders become part of the background of the facility? How about that tiny woman with the thick glasses who’s always in the main lounge, shading her eyes from the light; or the frail man with the gray hair who nods at you from his wheelchair whenever you pass by? And that Asian man who likes to sit by the window watching the traffic outside, have you ever wondered about him?
Your mom or dad’s new neighbors all have a piece of history attached to them. Some struggled in school, while others triumphed. Some worked with numbers while some pursued their creative abilities. Some individuals worked at exciting or prestigious jobs, others at boring repetitious ones. They lived, loved, and laughed, just like your mother or father. Why not take the time to learn a bit about them, too?
When you’re spending time in the lounge with your mom or dad, choose a seat within speaking distance of another resident. Start with a smile. You never know where a casual comment may lead. We all crave conversation. In most cases, it doesn’t diminish with age. In sharing their stories, a senior has a chance to relive their experiences here and now, rather than in the recesses of their memory. They matter to someone who wants to know who they are.
As for your mom or dad, perhaps they will gain a new friend out of your simple outreach. Maybe your dad was a pharmaceutical salesman, too. Maybe your mom was an I Love Lucy fan, too. Common experiences can serve as a firm foundation for a friendship. You’ll feel better knowing she’ll have someone to “hang out with.”
You might benefit in other ways too. Widening your circle of older acquaintances might result in practical advice you can put in place in your own life. And when you least expect it!
Take that lady mentioned above, the one with the glasses. A woman visiting her father, who was a writer experiencing a string of rejections, struck up what she thought was a casual conversation with the unassuming senior. As she wheeled her father toward the elevator, she offered her arm to the old lady hobbling beside her. She learned that the woman had been an accomplished illustrator of children’s books in the 1960s and ‘70s.
“Oh, I tried writing children’s books,” our visitor replied.
“And what happened?” asked the woman.
“I gave up.”
“Well, you must start again,” was the advice offered.
And so she did.
So, look around. At the very least you’ll break up the monotony of another human’s life. You never know, you might hear about a life of accomplishment. That Asian gentleman by the window, he was the youngest in a family that emigrated from China. Inspired by parents who believed in education and excellence, he went on to medical school and opened his own neighborhood practice, holding off retirement until the age of 82.
And the friendly gentleman in the wheelchair — after a career as a cameraman in Hollywood studios, he opened a successful store specializing in nuts and fine candies. It flourished for years.
Notice someone, because you never know where it will lead.