"It ought to be lovely to be old, to be full of the peace that comes of experience."
— D.H. Lawrence
The other day, I suddenly realized that I am much closer to 60 than 50. I started thinking about aging.
My mother, who is 85 years old, now resides in a personal care home. Most people think of nursing homes as the end of the line — depressing places with little hope or joy — places where the elderly come to die.
After spending time with my mother at the care home, I realize that this perception is not at all accurate.
The facility itself is spotless. The rooms are cheery, and staff is always visible. Often the halls are filled with music — visiting school choirs or individual musicians. Activities such as balloon ball, lemonade in the courtyard, bingo, and religious services are offered to the residents.
There are many lessons to be learned from the elderly. One lady at my mother’s dining table ensures that all the women are safely seated for meal times. She constantly tells me how lucky I am to have a mother. She misses her mother all of the time, and yet has become the table "mother".
The elderly teach us patience. Life has slowed down for them. The pace of life has changed completely. It takes longer to do everything, and yet my mother tells me that time flies for her.
Since I began visiting this home, I realize what is truly important in life.
For residents, life has been stripped down to the bare essentials — a warm bed, comfortable shoes and clothes, food, and most importantly, the love and care of family, friends, and caregivers.
The caregivers are the true heroes here. The other day, I entered the elevator with a nurse from my mother’s ward. When I asked her how she was, she smiled sadly, and told me that a woman she cared for had passed away. On her deathbed, the woman told the nurse that she loved her. I acknowledged how difficult that must be for her. Again, the nurse smiled and said that she considers the residents her family, as she lost her own family at a young age. She felt privileged to have so many grandparents surrounding her.
I have witnessed caregivers giving hugs, and sitting residents to comfort them. They smile and are cheerful with even the most cantankerous individuals.
None of us knows how long we will live, or how we will cope with aging. I hope that I can accept the future with the grace and dignity that I witness in the elderly on my mother’s ward. Perhaps visiting a personal care home reminds us that life is short. It reinforces what should be the priorities in life — health, family and happiness.