Aging is a process that we will all go through and as we age, we do grow wiser, realizing that we are just living each day like sands falling through the hourglass. So, being both an older adult and someone who works with older adults, I know we need to think outside the box when working so closely with others to capture their spirit, their sense of self, who they were then and who they are now.
I’m fortunate to have learned over the past few years, how important person-centred care is for older adults, and that has given me many moments to reflect on the importance of working with heart and creativity. Now when I think of myself getting older to the point that I may need to be cared for by others, how will I let my carers know who I really am, what I love to do, what I’ve done in my life, what my passions were and still are? But the question really is, will they care? Do others, like myself worry about things like this? It can’t just be me.
These questions come from the knowledge that I know things can be different when we really do look at the person, when we really listen and when we really open our hearts to making a difference every day. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time, often creating one special moment is enough. Just being in tune with the person, knowing their life story, and taking that moment to think creatively about making a connection that will be meaningful for them.
A very special story I have to share is remembering one sweet man living in supportive living who I would meet once in a while in the hallways. We were chatting one day when he told me that he had been a telegraph operator during the war. I was so impressed when he said he could communicate in three languages in morse code. As I was instantly intrigued, I asked him to tell me about his work and he then asked me if I had ever seen a telegraph machine. I told him no and he very kindly opened his door and asked me to come in and take a look. He very gently removed this heavy piece from the shelf with care and reverence. It was beautiful, with brass and very interesting intricate parts (similar to the photo here). I could see in his wistful eyes how much it meant to him that he was able to show me this piece of his past. I asked him if he ever had shared this with other residents in the building, he said he hadn’t, but he would love to. It was special to hear this man’s story and after our visit, it was arranged for him to regularly visit the other residents and share his unique story with others who had lived through the war. I heard later about the difference he was making in the daily lives of others, but most of all, my heart was happy that this lonely man now felt he had something of value to contribute to the neighbours in his home.
I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to share in the lives of some of the most interesting older people, listening to them, often in so much awe of their achievements. These experiences give me hope that others will be caring with an open heart, when I might need their support. It doesn’t take extra resources for us to engage with people’s spirit, it just takes a creative way of getting to the stories and helping people share these with others.