“This is the best thing that’s happened to me since I got old!” my mom said to me recently. She was talking about her weekly visits to the local Senior Center. I must say I was surprised since for the last few years she had staunchly resisted the idea of having anything to do with it. “Why would I want to go there? I can eat lunch at home, can’t I? was what she used to say. And she certainly wasn’t lonely. She had a best friend.
Then nine months ago, her best friend moved back east to live with his daughter. For the past several years he and my mom had phoned each other in the morning and in the evening just to check in and be sure everything was alright. They had coffee now and then, went to town to shop for groceries and enjoyed their pets together. The daily calls kept them company. And, if a project needed an extra pair of hands, they knew who to call.
“Well, Will’s moving.” She told me one day last winter. “Don’t worry, she said. We can still talk on the phone.” But they didn’t. And over the months, I heard her voice get sad when I asked if she’d heard from Will – so I stopped asking. Then she started going to her local Sr. Center because she finally admitted she was “a little lonely sometimes.” And that changed everything.
Now, every Wednesday she’s up early to get dressed, straighten her cozy little house and feed her sweet puppy, Angel. Then she waits for the little bus that comes for her at 10:30 for the trip through the curvy back roads of rural Arkansas to pick up the dozen or so senior citizens who start talking, laughing and catching up even before the bus door closes! Anna, the driver whom my mom describes as “such a nice girl”, takes good care of her little flock getting them to the center, to the grocery store, to their doctors and even to Wal-mart once a month!
Then they’re off to the little brick building with the big American flag out front where they will have lunch, play cards or dominos or quilt or try their had at the computer in the corner. But mostly, they will talk and laugh and talk and talk and talk. And, sometimes they will even fall in love!
In June I heard about the couple (both in their 80’s) who were “dating”. When I asked how she knew this, she said, “They sit together on the bus and he carries her groceries.” For some reason, this reminded me of the sweet days of junior high. In July, I heard they were thinking of moving in together but worried what people would think. Then, last week, I heard they were planning a wedding – you guessed it….. at the Senior Center.
Having something to look forward to, meeting new people and sharing in the flow of life is what my mom meant when she said “This is the best thing that’s happened to me since I got old!”
If you love a senior citizen and would like to hear them tell you the same thing, please consider encouraging a visit to their local Senior Center. Assuming resistance, which is almost inevitable, you might make it easier for them by visiting first yourself, learning about available services and doing a good sales job. Probably a first trip together would be a good idea too. If need be, consider nagging a little. As a last resort, you might share this column. My mother and I can almost guarantee it will be worth your trouble!