I take the air that I breathe for granted. I expect the ground will be there to meet my feet when I step outside my front door. I know that each day there will be sun,a moon and millions of stars in the heavens. I really do, don’t you?
I do not, however, take my eyesight or my ability to read for granted. (That and the fact that I can hop in a car and drive to the library!)
I know that I cannot cure cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, but I can help alleviate isolation and loneliness.
The pervasive attitude in our society is that if you can’t see or hear it – it doesn’t exist. Such is the case for the frail and elderly who live in nursing homes, long term care facilities, board and care homes, senior housing complexes; and YES even behind the closed doors in your neighborhood.
Half jokingly we talk about downsizing “one of these days.” But downsizing by choice rather than a forced reduction in living space due to age, health or mental acuity changes one’s perspective. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average home size is 2,400 square feet. The living space for most elderly in facilities is an 8’ x 10’ room. Imagine purging 80 years of life into a small room. But that is exactly what so many of our aging population are destined to do.
Compare a child’s room to that of the parent in a nursing home. Because you want the best for your little one, there is color, many comfort items like stuffed animals and blankets, perhaps a mobile, musical toys and lots of books. Long before a child can read, there is a bookshelf lined with remarkable books.
In the memory care facility where I delivered recorded books to Barb the other day it was quite a different setting. A few yellowed photos were pinned to a washed out wall; the armrest of the fake leather recliner was duct taped together; the single light in the ceiling flickered off and on and the broken shades were cracked open exposing a brick wall.
A room devoid of color or background music brightened as I entered, It must have been from the smile on Barb’s face that greeted me. We talked for hours about her five children, 12 grandchildren, and her husband who recently passed away. I attempted to demonstrate to Barb the use of the cassette player hidden away in the corner of her room. It was broken and long forgotten, just like Barb. Fortunately, her training on the old compact disc player was successful. She expressed gratitude that books were going to be returning her to a life of lost adventures.
You, Barb and I have 24 hours in a day. The difference is that sitting in solitude, her day is a lot longer.