Here at Senior Steps, Inc., we embrace and celebrate the later years, recognizing the later seasons of life as a great opportunity for perhaps the richest chapter yet. Although it’s easy to feel the pressure of life and aging, especially with advertisements and TV shows filled with youthful people doing youthful things, it’s important to remember the great blessing of elderhood: the time to reflect and enjoy.
None of our clients (currently at least!) are skiing, scuba diving or taking long hikes to breathtaking vistas. Of course, the obvious physical limitations are a factor (it’s hard to rock climb with arthritis), but the hunger for activity, however small, is still there. Some of our clients take walks, maybe only 100 feet, or even less! But imagine what they see and feel over the course of a spring full of daily walks... a bare branch, the hint of a bud, a peek of green, the unfurling of a leaf, the bend of the leaf in the breeze, and the tree finally ablaze in green.
Often in our younger years we rush through life, desperate to experience the next thing and singularly focused on goals, achievements, milestones. Growing and succeeding. We never really take the time to observe and contemplate, the time to reflect and watch life peacefully move along. This is the gift of age! We age, we slow down, and we see life in real time, real motion.
Older people have a chance to reflect, restore, repair and remind themselves along with others how important relationships are.
A few years back, I worked the overnight shift at an elder care facility. One of our patients was a 93 year old woman with severe arthritis. She usually requested help to use the bathroom twice during the night, a trip which for her was about 40 minutes. She was in constant pain, but she was determined to retain her mobility and consistently refused the use of a wheelchair. And so she walked to the bathroom, taking 15 minutes to walk the 15 feet to the bathroom, and another 15 back. I spent a lot of time with her on those overnights! And I learned about her life, her childhood, never marrying despite her strong desire to have a husband and children, her work life and purchasing her own home and how she lived out her retirement by travelling, seeing places and meeting people she never thought she would!. Listening to her on those long walks in the middle of the night I saw the joy in her face and the thrill of reliving it all in her voice. And I learned a lot about love and forgiveness from her stories. I got to enjoy the light going off over her door. Like a reader awaiting the arrival of Charles Dickens’ next chapter at the waterfront, I knew her story would continue and so would my learning.
She wasn’t young, she was old and abundantly rich with life, and her generosity in sharing that zest for life and joy of living more than a decade later still resonates with me.
Aging is not a curse. It’s part of the long journey of our lives, and a happy, healthy capstone to a life well lived.