I decided last year that I wanted to do something selfless. I felt volunteering for a care home would be reasonably selfless; although not so selfless I wouldn’t enjoy it. I have been visiting residents in a care home for the past 5 months. I initially played games with the ladies: sometimes dominoes with an individual and sometimes scrabble with a group. I also took one of the ladies out to Kew Gardens for a walk which was pleasant.
I felt it would be nice to think of an activity which would bring the members of this home together, so I started doing a quiz. It took me a few weeks to realise their interests so that I could tailor the quiz to suit them. I still on occasion include questions which make references to modern concepts like Twitter and the #hashtag. The ladies have informed me that some of these words sound like a foreign language, so I know not to include such words in future quizzes.
The ladies are wonderful and have led amazing lives. One lady was a midwife, another lady was an architect and another was a teacher. Many of them are mothers and grandmothers and some are great grandmothers. Some of these ladies are able to recall what they were doing on a certain day 50 years ago, some of them have fantastic knowledge of history, one lady is in such great shape she takes her pet dog out many times a day for a walk. The residents have lived rich, full lives, and continue to do so. The women have such a lot of knowledge and life experience I learn a lot from them, they are also fun to be around and I thoroughly enjoy my visits. I have failed at finding an entirely selfless activity.
This year we want to give a voice to care home residents, so every month they are going to have their own blog. By way of introduction, one of our volunteers asked some local care home residents for nuggets of wisdom they have gleaned over the years:
"It’s a wonderfully Christmassy morning at my local care home and I can see there’s a school visit in progress as I enter the lounge. I volunteered to spend the morning with some of the residents here in the hope of recording some of their views and thoughts in a blog entry. Away from the festivities I walk into the quieter lounge to see Mrs. J waving at me. I’m so pleased that she remembers me from a few months ago. Mrs. J has always greeted me with a smile, she always asks after my family and is great company. Although I didn’t chat to her for too long, she gave me a few gems of wisdom. Looking back on her life, she said her marriage was probably the biggest turning point and to this day she could remember every little detail of her wedding day. Her secret to a long and happy marriage was making allowances, listening to each other and never trying to monopolize the other. She tells me that if she could travel back in time, she’d tell her younger self to be more tolerant of everyone. She also wishes today’s young generation was more tolerant. Over the years the biggest lesson she thinks she’s learnt is to listen to other people. At this point I find myself wondering if I’d ever learn to be patient and tolerant! I promise to see her the next time I visit as she goes to her room to rest.
As I walk back to the main lounge I spot Mrs. R sitting on a couch by the door looking beautiful in a green dress and jewellery to match. She says she’s waiting for her annual lunch at the Church but in her excitement got ready too early and had 30 minutes to spare. She was glad to answer some of my questions while she waited. Mrs. R lost her hearing at age 12 because of a very serious illness and it changed her life. At age 15 she had to drop out of school when they started teaching shorthand. At the time there were no hearing aids and coping with everyday life was very difficult. Jobs were limited too. Meeting her now one couldn’t guess she’s deaf as she’s an excellent lip reader.
A year before the war she moved to Cornwall as it was deemed safer. During the war, she found a job as a clerk at the food office - she was 16. She talks of her travel to America and Canada and says some of her happiest memories are from her travels in Montreal, hitchhiking in Kansas and shopping in Atlantic City. She laughs as she remembers how she nearly missed the return boat to England - running in her navy blue dress as they pulled up the gangplank on the Queen Mary. Back in England her favourite job was at a University working in administration. She thoroughly enjoyed University life but hated the word processors when they first arrived on the scene.
She talks of many of her ups and downs in life and her journey as a born again Christian - she believes that her faith helped her get through her difficulties. She has made many friends through the church and thinks she’s a stronger Christian than ever. Her ride is now at the door but she gives me one parting piece of advice to pass on to the world - Find out what you are good at and aim high!
Director of Embracing Age