Who knew a move to a retirement home could bring out the best in someone? Back in summer, the frail mom of one of my dearest friends was compelled to make just such a move, leaving behind forever the house she’d kept alone for so many years.
My pal Heather has often mentioned her mother’s wonderful personality – positive, modest and kind. Clearly, Heather was impressed with her mom’s ability to settle in after what must have been an enormous and emotional upheaval. Of course, no family member looks forward to this kind of transition, but we do it because we hope for certain benefits for our loved one: more care, increased safety, better accessibility.
Last week, Heather (who, by the way, was toying with the pseudonym Apple for this column) mentioned one benefit of the move that was completely unplanned: “My mom is getting a great deal of satisfaction from helping people out,” she told me. Just the other day, for instance, her mom had come to the aid of a lost and wandering floor-mate who couldn’t recall her room number. She brought her downstairs and found a staff person, much to the other woman’s relief and gratitude.
Between disoriented seniors and all the recreational activities, mealtimes and social events, the opportunities to do a kindness must abound in a retirement home. Every single day, you can’t help but encounter other people. Every single day, you have the chance even just to share a smile, or wish someone a good afternoon.
“This is the kind of social interaction she never had when she lived alone in her house,” Heather told me, pointing out she’d never expected that the opportunity to do more good deeds would turn out to be so meaningful for her mother. As for Heather’s ma herself, she emphasizes that she’s not exceptional – she finds staff and residents alike are generally kind and helpful to each other in this place.
Still, it’s a perk to be able to be neighbourly again. “I think she feels good helping others, and it makes her feel she has something of value to offer,” Heather said. “As people get older, they are so often the ones who need help.”
They say you can’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs. In the same vein, altruism never gets old.