Written on February 14, 2016
As I write, it is -15 degrees in Williamstown, MA, with a dangerous windchill factor, making it ‘feel like’ -35! Who can feel anything at -35 degrees?! Yes indeed baby….it’s COLD outside!
One of the biggest obstacles for seniors, whether they be 65 or 95, is the idea of leaving their homes. I’ve heard colleagues in other senior living communities refer to a person or couple’s home as the “house” they’ve owned or lived in for the past 40, 50 or 60 years. Yes, it is a house but, most importantly, it is a home; it is the place they first lived with their beloved spouse; the place where they watched their children play in the yard; where they measured the annual growth of their children with the pencil mark on the wall or door jamb. Their home was host to countless Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings with family from all over, many who have left this life for the next. Their homes are where they mowed the lawn, planted vegetable and flower gardens, the place where they helped their children get ready in their Halloween costumes to go trick or treating in the neighborhood and from where they watched those same children go off to college, get married or join the service. So, when I’m talking with a family about the possibility of them or their parents moving into our Sweetwood community, I know that, in many cases, the people with whom I am talking are experiencing the anticipatory grief of leaving their home behind, as it contains all the memories of what their love and lives have been.
In reality, that love and those memories are contained in them and they will take them wherever they go. For those with cognitive impairment and, indeed, in all of us, memories are carried in our hearts, in our spirits–the very core of our beings– and nothing can ever take them from us. If our house is destroyed by a fire or natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado, do our memories disappear with it? No, they do not, anymore than they do when we move to a new house and create a new home.
On a weekend such as this, with dangerously cold temperatures, I think about all of the seniors trapped in their homes, unable to get to the store, go to church or synagogue, get to the senior center for exercise class and lunch with friends. I worry about what can happen if the high winds cause power outages, knocking out their lights AND their heat, knowing that they won’t call for help but rather, as most folks I know do, they will try to power through and take care of themselves, sometimes with tragic results.
Here at Sweetwood of Williamstown, our residents are warm, active, having coffee and meals with friends, going to exercise class, enjoying the pool, perhaps playing pool in the Greylock Room or listening to a fellow resident ‘tickle the ivories’ in the auditorium. In a few hours, many residents will gather to watch an afternoon movie without having to set one foot outside our front door. Most importantly, they are safe!
I understand the difficulty of leaving one’s home–I’ve had to do it, more than once in my life and it isn’t easy. On the other side of the difficulty and the grief associated with such a change is the opportunity to create a new home and new memories, to add to those already living in our heads and our hearts. Many of us are conditioned to believe that we cannot make new friends, find new hobbies and start new journeys at a certain age. Such a belief sells all of us short and at Sweetwood, every day as I observe and interact with the entire Sweetwood community, I am reminded how wrong that belief is!
So, come in from the cold to the warmth, comfort, safety and adventure that awaits you at Sweetwood of Williamstown. A new home is here for you, along with new friends and new memories to be made–all of these to be added to the homes, friends and memories that have enriched your life thus far and made you person you are today!