If I could choose another occupation aside from teaching and owning a bookstore/coffee shop that offered reading instruction and strategies, it would be in the area of geriatrics (however, I don’t like that word).
I really enjoy the company of our “golden” population. Our church has a committee, or circle (a church word, which I like), of people who visit those who are in senior care centers, and this is a committee that I have been a part of and truly enjoy.
Enjoying the company of each other, sharing each other’s personal stories, talking about weather and how it used to be, and enjoying the moment make up our visits.
I recently spent some time with an elderly man from our church who was in hospice. As he was resting, I held his hand and tried to envision his life the 80-plus years that he lived. I did not know the man well, other than seeing him in church. I knew he was a farmer, and my father, too, was a farmer, so it was easy to imagine the hard work his hands had endured over the years.
I thought about all of the crops he had harvested; the infinite milking of dairy cows his hands, back, and knees had endured; the number of bales of hay he stacked in his hay barn; and the number of prayers he said for good weather and plentiful crops. He deserved a remembrance of the life he lived. He had earned this.
I asked him if I should recite the Lord’s Prayer with him, and he nodded his head in approval. I did this, and he voiced, “Amen,” after I was done. This memory will remain with me.
Every month, a group of my students and I head over to a senior living center for an hour to socialize and play cards. It has been such a worthwhile and wonderful partnership. The benefits are immeasurable for all.
Games are taught to each other Kings in the Corner, Go Fish, Twenty-one, UNO, War, Yahtzee, and the list goes on. One of my students, who has Down syndrome, helped one of the seniors, who had never played Yahtzee, to play the game. The senior was amazed at how quickly the student tallied up her points and knew just which spot she would designate those points to (e.g. three-of-a-kind, flush).
This student has a German heritage. In fact, she has been to Germany a few times to visit her grandmother, who still lives there.
One of the seniors also came from Germany. When she was in her early 20s, she came to America on her own to marry a man she had met from America. She still has a strong German accent, which my student is very used to, as her mother and grandmother have the accent, as well.
This sharing of German heritage started a relationship between the two invaluable for both.
One of my male students, who has had some tough times in life, always gravitated to the same table with the same lady. Kings in the Corner was always the match. This senior friend developed into almost a mentor for him. She was a tough cookie, but loving and kind. She was a former English teacher, “old school,” as they say. Strict, but caring, and that is how their game of Kings in the Corner was, as well.
This male student, aside from having somewhat of a tough exterior because of circumstances, had a heart of gold (not steel), and so did the senior lady a tough exterior, but a heart of gold. A perfect match.
Another male student with some learning and behavioral issues, but who was caring and funny, also connected with two male seniors. Laughing always ensued at their table. One of the last visits he had with one of the male seniors, who also had a great sense of humor, ended in a conversation with the senior telling the student, “I suppose you are gonna go meet the girls in your convertible now.”
The student quickly responded with, “Yeah, and I will pick you up, too.” Everyone shared a laugh. Another connection formed invaluable for all.
Everyone, including our youth, should take the time to learn and share with our “golden” population. The benefits are immeasurable.