If you walked into any senior’s residence, you would undoubtedly be surrounded by inhabitants who have lived diverse and fascinating lives. You would be among men and women who have traveled the world, fought wars, written books, saved lives, delivered babies/speeches/good news/heartbreaking news & breakfast on a tray to loved ones. They would have faced danger, haters, bitter cold, self-doubt, unemployment, loss, regret, parental guilt, the roller-coaster ride of falling in love & the eternal hope of wedded bliss. They probably know a thing or two about forgiveness & making the best out of what you have, & nestled in all of that turmoil and happiness lies the heart of a person who might just like to revisit some of those amazing memories, if asked. To some degree re-telling means re-living what may be some difficult memories, but it also means re-living within the healing & enlightening glow of perspective.
When I was growing up, my grandmother, who was a special education teacher and an avid reader, would always have a book in her hands or by her side. If we visited and she was in the living room, we would sit beside her and talk about anything that was going on in our lives, in her life, within the family, or about the book she was currently reading. If she was in bed reading, we would always be welcomed to sit on or climb onto the bed with her to hear her endless wisdom, which her five children and all of her grand-kids came to treasure over the years until her passing at age 94. What a gift it was to invite my grandmother to tell her story. What a gift to the teller as well as the listener. When a gift such as this is exchanged, something new is created --- the delight of bonding over a deeper level of understanding. The memories being shared are a glimpse into an unseen world, yet it’s a world that is connected to the one currently being occupied. The trick may be to allow the storyteller complete control to choose the story they want to tell.
In honour of the elderly, I propose that we start a new observance, which is to call a senior monthly. Let them hear the sound of your beautiful voice saying “Hope you’re having a wonderful day”. What a great opportunity to offer them another occasion to boast about you to the teller at the bank or their neighbours or fellow-residents if they’re in a senior-care facility. They may not even remember exactly who you are. That’s ok, too. The sound of your voice will make their day.
Visiting in person throughout the year is often out of the question due to logistics, however making a call is so much easier, don’t you think? If we designate one call in an entire month for this, it would be easy to work in, and hopefully turn into a habit. If elderly people got one call a month from each of their family, hardly even a week would go by without the elderly person hearing from at least one of their relatives, and what an all-round gift that would be for the entire family!