Thursday, October 8, 2015

Older and Better

A retired doctor moved into Drake Terrace yesterday. He is fairly independent, walks with a cane, has hearing problems, but manages all his care. He is already walking through the community as if he's lived there for several months.

He's 99.

He and his daughter moved him out of his home in San Francisco and into communal living for the first time in his life. She's an active land surveyor in Israel, working well into her 70s. A sketch she did of 3000 year old beehives she helped unearth was made into a postage stamp by the Israeli government.

Her father reads three newspapers a day, loves to socialize, and fondly recalls his days as a general practitioner. He may not remember he has already met some of the staff, but at 99 he is one of the few mostly independent residents we have at that age.

Ten people have moved into Drake Terrace in the past month, creating a whirlwind in our 135-person community. One man routinely out-biked men and women fifty years younger up until he was 80. Another woman, now 90, hiked across England from west to east fifteen years ago. Another woman raised a family of swimmers, including an Olympic medalist. One woman roller bladed to work in the business department at Queens College, and later in life played tennis and biked every morning.

All of the new people (and the regulars) form a rich tapestry of people who constantly inspire and intrigue and fascinate (and frustrate) me. I am blessed to be surrounded by them.

Tonight a woman from Oklahoma who spent most of her life in Texas shared how she and her late husband owned two banks. They expected their son to follow in his parents' footsteps, but he ended up starting his own very successful olive oil company.

I often say to new residents and their families how sorry I am I never got to know their mother or father in their younger, heyday years. By the time many people move into Drake Terrace they have physical or emotional needs that require added care, are suffering from cognitive decline (or worse), or want (or need) to be closer to family.

Long gone are the people who danced on weekends, took all-day car rides, traveled across the world, built businesses and raised families. But the people who adapt most easily to senior living are the ones who remain active, who still dance on Saturdays at Happy Hour, who attend our book club, who go on outings for lunch and dinner, who play Wii bowling, who play Bingo or go to church, or who play an instrument or go on long walks.

An 88-year old woman recently told me after an exercise session, "I'm a 30-year old trapped in old person's body." But her aches and pain haven't stopped her from living.

No comments:

Post a Comment