Monday, September 12, 2016

The Collection of a Lifetime

What Should a Ninety-Year-Old Take to a Nursing Home?

A couple of years ago I was getting my hair cut when an elderly woman came into the salon with her caretaker. After a shampoo, the pensioner eased into the chair at the station next to mine with a loud sigh.

"Happy Birthday, Mrs. Jane Doe!" The young stylist chirped in her most fake-cheerful voice. "How does it feel to be treated to a day of pampering for your special day? Do you have any advice on life for us 20-somethings?"

The elderly woman clamped her lips in a tight line, narrowed her eyes, and glared in the large mirror at her stylist.

"Well, girly," she said, "let me tell you how it feels. It feels like hell! I have bladder problems, arthritis, a bad ticker, and--if you believe my good-for-nothing, money-grubbing relatives--dementia. My husband and close friends are dead. My house and everything in it, things I spent a lifetime collecting, have been sold. I'm living in a nursing home with a bunch of old people. How do you think I feel?"

The salon was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Her stylist was poised with a brush in one hand and a hair dryer in the other; speechless.

"Advice?" she said. "My advice to young whippersnappers like you is to forget about buying a bunch of stuff and filling your world with things. Instead, you should collect all the memories you can."

Mrs. Doe gave me a sidelong glance and winked as if we senior citizens had a secret that isn't revealed until after you reach a certain age.

"Memories," she repeated as she held my gaze. "Make a lot of them. No one can take those away from you."

I smiled at her and dipped my head in a brief nod of agreement. It's true, so many people don't realize what is most important as they travel life's road to old age. It's only after they arrive that it becomes so very clear.

If you were given $5,000 and told you couldn't keep the money, you had to spend it on something frivolous (not bills or appliances) within the year, what would you do with it? Would you buy something tangible or would you take a trip with someone you love and build some memories?




12 comments:

  1. So, so true. I think we get obsessed with buying things in our twenties in that getting your start is difficult for most. Then you keep it up out of habit. I am in the process of downsizing. It is a humbling thing. I have been prepared for hard times and now it is giving me a hard time getting rid of it all.
    Oh well, it is the people in your life that matter.

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    1. I spent the first half of my life collecting stuff and now it looks like I'll spend the rest of my life trying to let go of it.

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  2. $5000? I'd book the longest cruise I could find, in the biggest room $5K would get me, and Hubby and I would have a blast visiting places we've never been to before. I love building memories with him. :)

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    1. That sounds like a wonderful way to spend your $5K! Take lots of pictures.

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  3. $5000? I definitely take a trip. We went to Orlando last spring and tried Sea World's Discovery Cove and it was truly exceptional. We went to swim with the dolphins, but loved the other exhibits like the Grand Reef and the Freshwater Oasis (plus birds) even more. And the food was outstanding. We all want to go back.

    Things, on the other hand, tend to pile up and become so much work to keep clean and organized. That was one smart lady. (But I'm keeping my books, so help me!)

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    1. If I could pry my husband's hands off all his stuff, dusting and polishing would be a thing of the past. I think I could easily live a minimalist life. I'd keep all my books too--but on my Kindle. One book with thousands of stories!

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  4. Nope, it'd go to bills. Until those are paid off, I get nothing frivolous.

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    1. Hey, Liz, no cheating. You have to spend it on something fun or I'll take the imaginary $5K back! ;-)

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  5. I'd take a trip with a loved one. Easy question to answer. I worked in a nursing home at one time. It was so hard for the patients. They lost everything. If they were confused, being in strange surroundings only made them more confused. One woman told me that her doctor never came to see her. I checked and found out he'd been there the day before. I told her about it. She said, That man was the doctor?

    I bet he never said, Hi, I'm so and so and I've come to see you about this and that. The patients needed specific information that they so often did not receive.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I wrote an article a few months ago about the invisible senior citizen. How the older generation is often dismissed or ignored to the point of feeling invisible to many, including health care professionals. A person with Alzheimers, dementia, or an occasional senior moment still deserves to be treated with respect. If we live long enough, most of us will find ourselves in that situation eventually and will be grateful we are still visible--especially to those we love.

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  6. I've heard arguments on both sides--I've known people who think trips are a waste of money when you can spend the money on something you can enjoy every day (like a TV set). This sums it up perfectly, though. Life is basically a collection of moments and we need to embrace those moments!

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  7. I would be on the next flight to Australia, my granddaughters are growing older by the day and I miss them. The youngest starts school next January and my husband and I are determined to see her walk through the door on her first morning. Loved your post.

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