Updated: May 18
Based on the personal experience of watching my own parents grow older, I believe that a “good old age” means being productive for some. For others, it also means being engaged in one’s community.
My father was always a loner but enjoyed feeling productive at work and in his greenhouse. My mother was the opposite. She needed both a sense of community and a sense of contributing. She was a “cog” in the wheel of life.
Betty Jane, Circa 2015.
At first, it was disturbing to see that nothing was off limits. Eventually, I embraced it. I am also an artist, so why wouldn’t I encourage this artistic urgency? It’s in my DNA.
I would leave her with the blank canvas of a lampshade or a pillow and come back to find dried out markers with missing caps all over the room. An array of colored objects were the result. I still display some of her handiwork.
Pillow by Betty Jane. 2015
Knitting was another go-to-action activity. But eventually she forgot how. She would start out and forget what she was making, so she was always left with some odd-shaped object. Unable to be used as a scarf or a blanket. It was a kind of in-between, but beautiful at the same time.
Knitting by Betty Jane. 2015
Today, when I gather residents together for a painting activity in nursing homes or retirement homes, I always think of my parents. This might be the only time of the day they are interacting with others in their community. They are engaged and creative. Even though there may be physical or mental impairment, residents are always happy to be given the opportunity for self-expression. The result is achievement and a sense of belonging.
Nora’s Love painting, Sunrise Nursing Home. 2016
I believe being productive, creative, engaged and self-reliant are some of the virtues of a good old age. The loss of our skills can be attributed to disuse. Staying active, engaged and creative in a community of like-minded people is good for all of us, especially in the later years. B I N G O !
My favorite comment from a resident at Sunrise Nursing home was, “Thank you for giving us the gift of staying creatively active. This is so much better than bingo!”