“Why do we think that if you put a random collection of elderly people together, they’d get along?”
Note: while the tone of the article below is more whimsical, it’s important to acknowledge that abuse in nursing homes, and elder abuse in general, is rampant. Over a quarter of American nursing homes have been cited for violations causing death or injury to patients. In Canada, a task force has been created to address the widespread abuse in Canadian nursing homes. My experiences with my grandfather and through general visits have been fairly positive, but I know that a tremendous amount of abuse occurs, often unreported.
- When you visit your grandparent(s) (or your girlfriend’s grandparent(s)) in a seniors’ centre/apartment complex/nursing home, all the other grandmas/grandpas/babas/dettos/nanas/zaydes/bubes/mimas get jealous. I think being visited by family has a certain social cache in the world of elderly ladies and men. It’s like getting new shoes in high school.
- I don’t know if seniors participate in the social events because they have to, or just because they’re there, or because they legitimately enjoy them. They’re always the same activities too; bingo, cribbage…maybe a lame fitness class. My dad plays jazz concerts for seniors from time to time, and from what I’ve seen people in the audience really enjoy that. I love seeing elderly ladies warble away to “Till There was You.”
- Why do we think that if you put a random collection of elderly people together, they’d get along? You only get more ornery and stuck in your ways as you age. Speaking for myself, I don’t generally love spending that much time with anybody, with the exception of my close friends and my girlfriend.
- You can usually tell the quality of the nursing home by how much it smells like urine. If it hardly smells like urine at all, it is a top-quality place! This is also a helpful tip for finding the right day care.
- When I was part of Hillel House (the Jewish club that exists on most university campuses, designed for the express purpose of convincing Jewish men to marry Jewish women, and vice versa), we used to visit the Seniors’ Centre on campus. Because we were a Jewish club, we only visited the Jewish residents. The thing was, though, there were only two or three Jewish residents in that particular Seniors’ Centre, so we would tromp by bed after bed of sad old lady or sad old man to mob one or two confused elderly Jews, and then tromp back out. It felt terrible.
- I think it might take a senior to understand a senior. I don’t really know what elderly people like. I think they like young kids, and looking at photographs? Knitting? Apparently, seniors like ducks. Beyond that, I have no idea.
- One advantage of being a senior is if you want to sit in a park and yell at random people, you can. Nobody can get mad, because you are old and frail and likely senile. You can wander around, just spouting off nonsense all day! I guess you can do that at any age, but it just seems like more fun when you get older.
- Some of the most resilient, confident, and hard-working people I have ever met work in nursing homes. The challenge of providing that level of care is enormous. Thankfully, caretakers are well-respected in larger society and well-paid for their work and expertise (alert: this is sarcasm. They are not).
- I’ve heard a lot of older people say they like going out and spending time with younger people. It keeps them young, and keeps them happy. Living in a nursing home surrounded by other seniors can have a net negative affect. If a few people are depressed or sick, it can begin to affect everyone living in the same home.
- Seniors are often under-valued and mistreated in our society*. Worth is determined by our ability to participate in the workforce. Older people have a tough time finding and keeping jobs, because they can’t keep up with technology shifts (and because of general ageism). As we age, we are considered to be less and less valuable until eventually we are put in institutions together, to play bingo until we die. I understand that there are people who do not have the ability to safely take care of themselves, but I also wish we had more respect for senior citizens. That being said, I complain as much as anybody about elderly Sunday drivers…
*It’s case by case, obviously…many people I know have very close bonds with the grandparents.