When I came to Australia I found work as a nursing aid and was a personal care assistant, then took a course to run activities which I loved. Before the red tape took over we did some amazing things. We used to cook fried rice with all the residents chopping vegetables and taking part, we had fun and the fried rice was delicious. No one ever got sick from our culinary efforts either. We did aromatherapy sessions and massaged their hands. ‘Happy Hour’ on Fridays with non-alcoholic wine, yet so much to make it more interesting.
I once hired a complete children’s farm to come to the nursing home but it rained on the day. We put down black plastic and all the animals, including calves, geese, chickens and goats came into the big day room. The staff nearly had a fit, but it worked and turned out to be the best day. I cried as I watched a little Russian lady nursing a hen and the baby goats were just like docile dogs. Another excursion was to the National Gallery, where a lady who was 100 saw for the first time the art that reflected her times. Again as we had tea the tears fell, as I saw the happiness and the animation on the residents’ faces. We also took them all to Healesville Sanctuary, which was a huge and exhausting expedition, but still worth it. We tried so hard to bring the real world closer for them, to engage them and open up their world. Yes, sing-alongs still work and make most people happy, but can you really see the generation we belong to being happy with that?
I only gave up my job as I reached the age of 70. The nursing home might beckon – my turn next, perish the thought. Guess what though? I know what I want. And it sure as heck is not bingo and baggy pants.
I want ‘Happy Hour’ every day, with a pretend bar and if necessary non-alcoholic drinks, as long as they look pretty. I would like every room to have the choice of a laptop or iPad area, so a desk is essential. If my brain is still active I want to keep it that way. I do not want to be put to bed at 6pm, though I am aware – with some health issues that might occur – I may have no choice. Television is an option, not one I would worry about. However, I want a Kindle with large print and endless books to browse. I simply will not sit and sing ‘Daisy’, although I know the previous generations loved it. I think for my generation it will be ABBA, the Beatles, and if really desperate country music. Yet, in my room there will be the muffled beats of Led Zeppelin or The White Stripes, unless I am having a nostalgic day, then it will be Eva Cassidy and Leonard Cohen.
Baby Boomers will need more than a sing-along and a glass of milk. We will want to dress more trendily perhaps? Not in thermal baggy pants. All this is pie in the sky, I know, as there will not be any money for the next wave of nursing home residents. How about lobbying the rich and famous and asking them to start putting money into a new breed of care homes? I can dream… Just don’t put me in an armchair listening to ‘Daisy’!