I follow a blog, Time Goes By, written by a 77-year-old woman who has been studying and writing about aging for 25 years (https://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2018/10/two-excellent-stories-of-youth-and-elders-together.html).
It is a great read and if you are interested in what is going on in government and society regarding the elderly, I highly recommend her contributions to the subject of old age.
In her column this week, she told of two programs that are matching up seniors and those not so senior in order for both parties to gain clarity and form friendships between the ages.
As a pre-teen and early teen, I spent time each summer with my grandparents, without my parents in tow. It was my first experience with ‘old’ people on a daily basis. My granddad was in his mid-80s, and my grandmother was 20 years his junior. She had polio as a child and as she aged her polio returned requiring her to navigate in a wheelchair.
I adored both these folks, and learned a great deal from them, primarily that they knew more than I did, and acceptance of their limitations, even though they were independent souls and didn’t display many constraints.
My granddad walked to his office (where he took lengthy naps rocked back in his chair in front of the office window facing main street in their small town) every morning except Sundays, walked home for lunch, took a 15-minute nap in his favorite chair, and walked back to the office for another 4 hours of talking with folks and enjoying more undisturbed naps for all to see.
The distance from home to work was not far, 6 or 7 blocks, uphill one way, downhill the other. I would try to match steps with him, but he was from the old school and insisted a woman should take two steps to a man’s one.
He instructed that men walked on the outside of the street (what we now call the curb side) shielding women from dirt and mud splashing on their clothing by horses and wagons moving on the unpaved roads. He explained in his younger days this was done because people would throw garbage/sewage/liquids and even each other from the second-floor windows, and again, the men being on the outside would get the worst drenching. He acknowledged with debris flying from above, women opened their parasols as additional protection from more than rain and the sun.
My grandmother cooked, washed, ironed, cleaned house, made the beds, and bought groceries all from her cane back wheelchair. When I was around 7 or 8 (that being in the late 1940s or early 1950s) her children cobbled up enough money to buy her what would be an early day golf cart with hand controls.
This allowed her to maneuver around town staying on sidewalks, mostly, and honking the irritating horn for strollers to get out-of-the-way. This mobility enabled her to continue getting to church where she played the piano every Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church my grandfather helped start, pick up the monthly commodities, and the weekly groceries.
Old age had not slowed them down, or so it seemed to me, but no doubt had mellowed them.
What I gave them was, hopefully, the memories of a time past when they too had roamed the fields and byways unencumbered by restrictions and disabilities, plus the current world seen through the eyes of a teenager, boosting their energy levels and renewing their optimism for the future.
As members of different generations, we built an understanding and appreciation for the struggles, the limitations, the demands both ages faced.
Recalling the topic beginning this diatribe, how to bring the youthful and the ‘ageful’ together, here is an idea with a couple of variations worth exploring.
Allow students or young professionals to live in unoccupied rooms in a nursing home for a reduced price with the agreement they will provide so many hours a month of volunteer time to the facility.
Open your own ‘empty nester’ home to a single person who can pay a lesser amount than the current rental rates with the same agreement of a certain amount of time each week or month helping with household chores, i.e. cooking, gardening, light bulb changing, and the list goes on.
And Ronni at Time Goes By shares more ideas to close the gap of perception between generations.
Food for thought.