Stop! Before you buy your senior yet another robe, sweater, tie, book or even computer, ask yourself this question. “Wouldn’t I rather give them a magic carpet to a world of fun, friendship, laughter, life-long learning and maybe even a little romance?” If you answered yes to this question, please read on.
“This is the best thing that’s happened to me since I got old!” my mom said to me recently. “It has given me more pure joy than anything in years. Thank you so much!”
She was talking about her weekly visits to the local Senior Center. While I was delighted, I laughed a little on the inside because she had resisted my suggestions to visit the Senior Center for years. “Why would I want to go there? I’m not lonely and I can sure fix my own lunch at home, can’t I?” she said when I suggested it. But things change.
Nine months ago, her best friend moved back east to live with his daughter. For the past several years they had phoned each other morning and evening just to “check in”. 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. This time when I suggested the Senior Center, she thought maybe she’d give it a try one of these days because she finally admitted, “I do get a little lonely sometimes.” But I know my mom. And I knew that one of these days just might not come without a little help.
So my basic need to get things moving (don’t think pushy) took over. During my summer visit, I located the Sr. Center in the town closest to her, made a visit, met Patti, the pleasant and helpful director who gave me complete information about services available including the little bus with the nice driver Ina which came to my mom’s area to pick up seniors every Wednesday. Patti volunteered to call my mom and invite her personally to come for a visit. And, as they say, the rest is history.
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 that 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! Ina, 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 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 July 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 August, 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!”
So, how can you give this magic gift to a senior citizen you love? Just mentioning it as a suggestion probably won’t work. Make it easy for them by doing the legwork yourself! Find the place, make a visit, find out about all the wonderful things that happen there. Then, do a great sales job. Make it sound like the magic carpet to fun, friendship, life-long learning and more that it really is. As a last resort, you might share this column. My mother and I can almost guarantee it will be worth your trouble!