A Personal Reflection ~ How Spending Time with a Senior Shapes Your Life
I don’t have a single memory growing up that doesn’t involve my grandparents. From my earliest memories, I can recall spending time with both sets of grandparents. I developed a special bond and relationship with all four, but none is more powerful than the bond I developed with my paternal grandmother. Maidie, as she was affectionately called, was the most effervescent, hilarious, and downright spectacular person I have ever met. She was completely unafraid of speaking her mind and often said the most unpopular (but true) things. I’m named after her, and that’s a badge of honor I’ll carry with me always.
Growing up, I thought it was completely normal to see your grandmother multiple times per week and spend every Saturday with her. It wasn’t until I was in my early teens that I realized that my family had cultivated a relationship with my grandparents that was unique and out of the norm. Most teens my age saw their grandparents on holidays or birthdays whereas I spent three to four afternoons per week going to the assisted living my grandmother lived in. I roamed around her ALF like it was my own personal kingdom and in doing so, I witnessed many amazing but also sad things.
I got to know the little kitty that all the residents doted on, spent time in the garden where residents worked to make it look so beautiful, attended choir and piano concerts in the music room and got to know the many residents whose families never visited. Maidie would introduce me to her friends – her group of “girls” as she called them who she ate lunch and dinner with. She made sure that I spent time talking with the residents who either had no family or whose family didn’t visit often.
She is why I love seniors so much. She made me listen to their stories and it is those stories that have stuck with me as I have matured into an adult. Maidie and I were two peas in a pod and her passing at the age of 93 left an indelible mark on me. I often reflect on the many life lessons that Maidie taught me, and I realize now that my work in geriatric healthcare is no accident. I still love to visit with seniors and listen to their stories. In an age where seniors are less revered and appreciated than they should be, I strive to teach my own children about the impact and importance of our seniors.
The single most important way that we as a nation and a culture can show respect and appreciation to our seniors is by simply spending time with them. If you are reading this and you are fortunate enough to have a living parent or grandparent, invest in the relationship with them. And if you don’t have a living parent or grandparent, volunteer with a senior organization! Spend time with them, ask them about their life, how they met their significant other, what they did for fun when they were kids, how they spent their time when they were adults. The answers to those questions will surprise, amaze, and yes, even sadden, you. But in those answers lies so much vibrancy and truth about who they are and who they once were. The impact of those stories can never be overlooked.
I know Maidie had no idea how her stories and the time I spent with her would influence my life. And I’m so grateful that my parents placed an importance on it. I look forward to continuing my work with seniors and hope I never stop listening or learning from them.
Chief Operating Officer
Family Private Care Services