Fun times at the assisted living facility

Jun 22, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

We’ve been visiting my partner’s mother in an assisted living facility for the past nine months. Although it’s rather depressing in some respects, there are some highlights. Some of the characters there are quite fascinating.

For example, there’s Carole who lives down the hall. Her face is as smooth as a porcelain vase, exempt from wrinkles and age spots. It’s hard to believe she’s 75. She’s gorgeous. Her secret?

Cold cream. She’s had no Botox, fillers, or plastic surgery. But her mind is addled. When she shuffles down the hallway, she always looks like she’s ready to burst into tears. I’m not sure why she lives there, but I suspect she became too difficult to care for like many who live there.

What’s touching about her is that feels things so deeply. She regularly comes to see my mother-in-law to check on her. It’s such a sweet gesture.  Sometimes she forgets her walker in the hallway and the aides remind her to use it so she won’t lose her balance and fall. I find her to be a loving and caring person, even if she feels somewhat abandoned by her family.

Then there’s the woman who lives next door. The TV is so loud that you can hear it down the hall. Periodically I engage with her, and her usual reply is “The golden years aren’t so golden are they?”

She is relegated to a wheelchair pushed by an aide, but her mind is still pretty sharp. When I walked by her the other day, she announced that she was still waiting for her medication. I guess she thought I worked there.

There are a few men here as well. One fellow looks like he’s in his early 60s and relatively fit. I tried to engage him at lunch one afternoon, but he seemed shy and befuddled. I suspect he had some cognitive impairment or PTSD, but he was very amiable.

Then there’s the sourpuss in the dining room. Her face truly looks like she sucked on a lemon. I’ve engaged with her a few times, inviting her to join us when we have lunch with my mother-in-law. Her reply? “I don’t sit with strangers!” I often see her dining alone, I guess she prefers her own company rather than the companionship of other people who might brighten her day.

One lady joined us for lunch a few months ago. I found out later that we were sitting at “her table.” She tolerated our presence there, but I sensed that we had invaded her space. I tried to engage her, but she was so soft-spoken, I could barely hear her.

My partner couldn’t decipher what she was saying either, but we did ascertain that she’s a world traveler, widely read, and had an illustrious business career. Every week she sits in the same spot with her usual arsenal of intellectual companions.

Then there was the buoyant woman who rolled by in her electric wheelchair. She was moving so quickly that I wondered if she had wheelchair insurance.

She was a delight and a real sit-down comic. We engaged briefly, bantering back and forth with various jokes and wordplay. I haven’t seen her since then. And I know what that means. When I volunteered at Culver City Senior Center, we performed at various places like this about twice a month. I tried not to let the reality of these facilities get to me too much, preferring to focus on entertaining the residents through music.

To see the joy in their faces as we sang was very rewarding. Giving them a momentary respite from the reality of where they were made my day. Just remember, the ageing process is different for everyone. Whether you have mobility issues, hearing loss, cognition problems, or something else, many of us will end up in places like these. It can be very lonely and depressing for most of these residents as they battle a variety of ailments.

I make it a point to reach out to older friends of mine who are isolated. Some of them are stuck at home and can’t drive anymore. Others are living in facilities like these and trying to make the best of their situation. Some live with their families and rely on them to take care of their basic needs.

Some of my pals wallow in their problems. Others are trying to make the best of where they are and stay engaged. By calling them, it brightens my day and hopefully, I make them feel better.  Reaching out to them reminds me there are many in worse shape than I am. And that’s a humbling reminder not to dwell on my problems, too much.

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