At a track meet today, I did some people watching between events. I noticed that many of the spectators were gray-haired, seasoned folks, yelling and encouraging the high school runners. In fact, there were as many “oldies but goodies” there, as there were younger adults.

I watched what they were doing and those that weren’t actively cheering were either chatting it up with others or using their cell phones.  Some were taking pictures and videos, others were playing solitaire and some were on Twitter and Facebook.  I loved watching how engaged they were in what they were doing.  I enjoyed watching their minds churn.  They were all full of life and sass.

It made me think of the nursing home visits we’d paid to my father-in law where the halls were lined with people whose eyes begged to be elsewhere. Some were there because of physical illness, some because of mental heath issues and some were there because they had nowhere else to go or no one to take care of them.

I wondered how many folks in nursing homes would thrive if they just had someone to take them to a game or discuss the news with them or show them the wonders of a cell phone. Or maybe they need to be talked to like the adults they are, not spoken to like babies. For some, a single phone call or  visit would probably work wonders. I wondered if they just needed something to look forward to and to know that someone cares and believes in them.

My father-in-law was in a nursing home for years after becoming extremely ill.  His prognosis of survival was slim. His health eventually improved and he moved to assisted living, two years ago. He always claimed that he would fully recover and start driving again and we admired his tenacity, but secretly believed that would never happen. A few months ago, after pacemaker surgery, he wasn’t able to return to assisted living because he’d now need oxygen, permanently. We didn’t want to put him back in a nursing home and he swore he could take care of himself, in an apartment of his own. So, against our better judgement, we moved him into his own apartment in an independent living facility and hired a nursing service to visit him three times a day. After two weeks of living independently, the nursing service called us to say that he no longer needed their care.  He’s now living alone and fine on his own. And he never needed oxygen.

We never thought a man in his mid-eighties could recover so completely. He always said he could, and he was right.  Now he wants to drive again. He says he can and I believe him.

Just goes to show…a little dignity goes a long way.

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