When Senior Living is good there is nothing better in the whole world

Not long ago I had lunch with a former Executive Director who now owns her own senior referral agency.  During the course of our conversation I asked her if she ever missed that role which she held for so many years. Her response was one of the best assessments of the job I’ve ever heard; “When it was good, there was nothing better.”

The Gift Of Today

Senior Living GoodnessToday was one of those days for me. Fresh off 2 weeks of holidays, family sickness and a December full of events and activities galore, I’ve not been following my usual routine, both personally and professionally. But this week things are back to normal. One of those routine practices I like to engage in is walking through the dining rooms and visiting our memory care neighborhood. This afternoon I got to spend some time in that special neighborhood and it was nothing short of magical.

Our activity person was in the kitchen with a resident or two making ambrosia salad. A mixture of fruit, mini marshmallows, shredded coconut and cool whip or yogurt, it instantly transports many of the residents, as well as staff, back to picnics, family gatherings and happy times. As we continued to work in the kitchen, more residents came into see what was happening. One was helping at the sink washing” dishes, another came in to eat some grapes and a few more just came in to see what was going on. I grabbed the bag of mini- marshmallows and gave some to each of the ladies in the kitchen and we all ate a few. One resident helped with combining all the ingredients while another added the coconut. When mixed up we all tried a spoonful, uttered some praise for the yummy creation and proceeded to discuss shoes and babies and other topics that came up organically in the conversation.  

After leaving the kitchen I went across the hall to the activity room and spoke with one of our residents who I hadn’t seen in a while. Usually quiet and sometimes even withdrawn, recently she has been animated, talkative and more engaged than we’ve seen her in a long time. When I sat down to talk with her she said, “I haven’t seen you in while”, which warmed my heart in a way difficult to describe. While there I met one of our newest residents, greeted three other ladies and watched as our newly acquired community pet walked around and gently interacted with the residents.

What’s So Special?

I know you are probably thinking, what is so magical about salad making and a dog roaming around a memory care neighborhood? Here’s what is special; for that time frame, all of those ladies, cursed with the incurable plague that is dementia, slipped their bonds and were engaged, vibrant women once again.  They weren’t wracked with anxiety, worried about what they cannot remember, and weren’t experiencing sun-downing behaviors. For this brief window of time they were simply women enjoying themselves and engaged in the simple practices of everyday life that we often take for granted. They were ALIVE. Not just being encouraged to join various activities, but really engaged.

As I walked back to the main building I felt as though I had been given a very valuable gift. I had been able to not only witness but be a part of a small time period in which these ladies were once again like their former selves. We laughed and talked and I was able to envision what it must have been like to know them before they were stricken with this terrible disease. I felt blessed to have been party to something that was so special and beautiful. And then I thought about my new friend and her words to me that couldn’t ring truer for me than today; “ When its good, there is nothing better.”