Every year, my grandmother, Vita, travels from her home in Argentina to spend a couple of months here in St. Louis. On previous visits she would always stay at my mom’s or uncle’s home, but this time she agreed to try The Gatesworth, the senior living community where our office is based.
Up until her recent trip, Vita had said staying at The Gatesworth was out of the question. She thought the idea of senior living was years and years away. Yet this time she agreed to give the community a chance, and she soon found that the benefits of senior living outweighed the risks. Vita wrote about her experience so far, and I’ve pasted her words below:
LIFE = CHANGES
We would not be alive without them. They could come to us unexpectedly, without warning, leaving us in a state of shock and bewilderment or just grow with us in time, unseen and unfelt, patiently waiting to manifest themselves when the moment comes, like actors behind the stage ready to make their appearance as the play so requires.
There is little we can do about the first kind of unexpected changes. However, there is a lot we can contribute to welcome, on the stage of our lives, the silent, gentle ones that have grown in us at the rhythm of our own existence.
As to my own experience that I would like to share with you, the silent gentle changes have started taking shape behind the scenes like patient actors. I wonder if they will take hold of the present, leaving few traces of my past and just uncertainty for my future. I think I can recognize them but I am still reluctant to accept them…
At this point another actor makes his entrance on the stage, he is not gentle though and I cannot quite understand his grimaces and pirouettes. His name is Fear!
Fear of losing my past, fear of being unable to control my present, fear of having no longer a future of my own!
A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE
A few years ago during my long visits in the States from my native Argentina, my daughter suggested it would be interesting for me to experience life in an assisted living community, just to see by myself how residents cope with their new lifestyles/changes!
I kindly declined her offer feeling I had nothing to do in an environment I felt I did not belong to. But most I feared this could be a first step towards leaving behind a whole life of memories and possessions.
And so some time went by, I became a widow and still worked as a professor, translator and medical interpreter. I had my friends, my home and a professional job that I enjoyed very much. However, deep inside myself I could sense that a cycle was coming to an end, that in spite of my rejection to even try joining an assisted living community, the necessity for a change would be a reality sooner or later.
MY DAYS AT THE GATESWORTH
“Only for five weeks,” said my daughter. “Give it a try before you go back to Argentina.” So I did, and a series of miracles started to happen…This place is a miracle in itself…where you expect to see older people walking around with vacant uninterested expressions you see truly aware human beings ready for a morning outing to shop, or an afternoon movie, or a game of bridge, or a lecture, or a live music presentation or a drink and appetizers at the happy hour…and the list goes on and on always appealing and exciting. What you see, in fact, regardless of age and circumstance, is the human potential to be happy–the natural desire to enjoy life and the precious gift of bonding with new friends.
LIVE JAZZ AT NIGHT
I love jazz, I always have, but when I saw the announcement on the daily program of events at The Gatesworth, I became curious about how enthusiastic the residents would be at the proposal. Immediately after the band started to play I realized how wrong I had been in my appreciation. Residents, even those in wheelchairs or using walkers, clapped and moved to the rhythms of the music, their faces beaming with joy and delight. No pretense, no make-believe, just sheer joy, or as the French would describe it, joie de vivre.
When, at the end of the presentation, everybody got into a line to circle around at the rhythm of “When The Saints Come Marching In,” I knew human beings are timeless and capable to rise above almost any circumstance in their search for happiness.
LESSONS LEARNT DURING MY STAY AT THE GATESWORTH
Changes come to our lives in disguise. They hide from us, they pretend they are not there, they even play with us hoping we will recognize them as friends. But we are suspicious of them, of their bringing all kinds of bad news for us: aging, losing everything we have fought for all our lives, being neglected by our loved ones, solitude and oblivion…and the list goes on and on.
But this assumption does not have to be so. There will always be nostalgia for our past that is gone forever and anxiety for what may come tomorrow, there will always be fear of the unknown, the same fear we also felt in our younger years but we could face bravely with the tremendous force of youth. It is a much more difficult task to accept changes as we age, mainly because we need to recognize them first and they are still hiding in disguise…so how can we accept what we cannot recognize?
Living at The Gatesworth has helped me see my life from a different perspective. Recognition and Acceptance of Changes have become part of this different perspective.
I will never thank my daughter enough for having asked me: “Mom why don´t you try even for five weeks?