Today our little guitar/singing group made a visit to a very posh retirement home. I would say it is one of the fanciest in the city. For example, you enter the building through automatic doors into a grand hotel- like foyer. A receptionist indicates a large guest book on her desk where she advises you sign in. Floors gleam and glass sparkles. A sitting area beyond the foyer is in view of the door but manages to be private because of the layout of the furniture . A large waterfall on one wall is the focal point. There are paintings , sculptures and artistic items scattered throughout creating a pleasing homey atmosphere.
Off to the left of the foyer is a bar with stools along the counter and tables and chairs arranged in clusters around the room. Pieces of art deco with a musical theme adorn the walls. On the other side of the bar wall but still off the foyer is an enormous dining room Each table is covered with white linen and all the chairs are richly upholstered. A grand piano stands in one corner of the room. All told it is luxurious living for retirees who can afford to spend their last days and possibly their last cent in such a place.
We set up our music stands and microphones in the dining room near the piano. About fifty seats were placed theatre style in front of us. All the seats were occupied by the seniors. They were a very active energetic group. As we sang many of them joined in and several of them got up and danced. One gentleman who danced was one hundred years old! I would never have been able to guess . Seeing someone of that age with such joie de vivre gave me a thrill of pleasure. But aside from this man’s longevity I was struck by the exuberance of all the residents who were there. They reminded me of my grand daughter, not because they appeared childish, no, not at all but, because of how uninhibited they were in expressing their pleasure. It showed in their eyes , their smiles, their singing, clapping and dancing.
As I sang and played my guitar I basked in the warmth of the moment. And I observed. I thought these had been very successful people in their heyday. Obviously lack of financial resources was not a problem for them. And they all seemed to be enjoying good health though there was evidence of a walker or two. Once people get over fifty walkers are almost the norm. More and more people get knees and hips replaced.
For me the experience of seeing so many elderly people gathered together and enjoying themselves was very reassuring and heart warming. There is a tendency to think that old age and poor health are totally inclusive. We focus on that rather than on all the cases where people have lived and are living quality lives either in a residence or in their own homes. I think our society must seek to change the collective attitude towards aging. If our thoughts and intentions can influence our realities then it makes sense to be positive. Let’s embrace each day we live. After all each day is only one day later than the one before. There may be another day ahead or there may not.
Old age is not a marker. It is an attitude. We cultivate it a day at a time. Our attitudes towards it are formed by allowing ourselves to think a certain way . We could as easily think the best as the worse. Numerical age has little to do with becoming old. You see it all the time, a forty year old who seems more like sixty or a seventy year old who has the energy of a forty year old. It is the stereotype that when a certain number of years pass one is old. Not so. The hundred year old gentleman I saw today had an attitude that belied that number. He may have illnesses. He could have chosen to sit in a wheelchair. He chose to dance. He is not old. He has just lived a long life. There is a difference.
I must keep in mind that I am not getting old. I am living a long life. That gentleman taught me something today.