Secret Vacations and Senior Sparkles
Monday morning when my alarm reminded me it was time to begin the day, I got up, made my bed, walked a few steps then, was overwhelmed with a good idea. “Declare this a vacation day and go back to bed for an hour”, which I did. This is an old secret plan I installed years ago when I was super busy with four children, cooking, cleaning and assisting Jim with congregational needs with no vacation days. Mentally, I’d declare a secret vacation day. I still worked, but I intentionally did things that I usually couldn’t do until after all my work was finished like reading, longer time with devotions, a dish of Ice cream in the middle of the day or writing a bonus letter to my mom while the kids napped. Not even Jim knew.
I like to be proactive, so now, many years later, the secret vacation time has wonderfully figured in to massaging the agitation of pandemic Plan B. You may know as well as I that it is easier to have more to do than you can take care of than to be able bodied without much on your platter.
By sometime on Monday, I usually have an idea about the next blog. If I don’t, like today, I listen and intentionally stay alert to blog comments and e-mails like Becky’s: “I Loved your blog! A spiritual calendar that I use has a short statement, paraphrasing…find all the sparkles that God presents in your day. I’m a big fan of little, precious sparkles. Joy and love, Ruth!”
Precious sparkles set my mind twirling. Sparkles for seniors? The inspiration had taken root. What’s it like to be part of the at-risk segment? I’ve already highlighted yesteryear’s pandemic Plan B guidelines for families and singles but today it hit me, “what about my own and other senior citizens handling Covid-19 disruptions?
Here I sit on Monday morning in my housecoat at my computer on my vacation day. First, I want to inform you that some of us are experiencing a double whammy of the unpleasant Plan B adjustment due to a loved one’s death at the same time. Jim’s death dove-tailed the arrival of Covid, but thankfully at the last minute, the family was able to get him home for his last ten days. We were blessed. One of my friends living in a village is also experiencing the loss her husband to cancer and adjusting to Covid restrictions at the same time. We had a good cry together. Our husbands were pastors and had been special friends for 50 years.
Someone described the pandemic as a tornado that comes through town and hits every house and every person. The damage is different for everyone but significant just the same. The younger segment may not be aware of how Covid 19 has bullied its way in causing turmoil for many seniors seriously tangling lifestyles: vacations, bus trips, cruises, family reunions cancelled. The at-risk age limits travel and visits with friends for lunch. Cancelling volunteering has blocked many avenues of seniors’ meaningful purpose. Changes in Aquatic, aerobic, exercising classes make it difficult for seniors to attend.
“Not getting to see children and grandchildren personally is the most more painful part,” a grandmother said as she shared her sadness in having to place goodies for the grandchildren on the porch and simply wave to them from a window. A daughter laments she’s unable to care for her 97-year-old dad as usual. Being deprived of socialization seems to depict the greatest pain.
Although at-risk seniors living independently at home struggle with government health restrictions involving limited socialization, but not to the extent of residents in retirement villages and other care facilities. That’s where I am turning the spot light in order to raise awareness.
Meal times in retirement villages and other facilities are the foremost events of the day, when they connect with others. Restrictions to lessen infection closed dining rooms, snack bars, and salad bars. In some villages they are having to walk alone to the dining area, pick up their meal ordered by phone; walk alone to their apartment where they eat alone. They cannot have group visits in lounges.
Another friend said they are free to walk outside, but must be alone and have a certain amount of time to be out. She said she is now free to drive to a drive-through for a meal, but paying twice for a meal is not a good financial practice. But it serves as a distraction of sorts.
Movies, game rooms, gyms, pools, talks, physical and occupational therapy, classes, hair salons. etc. have been put on hold. Temperatures are taken daily and residents must follow social distancing and wear masks. No mingling allowed. Visiting is limited to spotting friends and waving. No touch and little talk. Another friend said one of the residents in her village is a hugger and he still tries to gives them. He wants to get really close to talk. All of that is banned. He’s having a difficult time accepting that new rule.
My friend, a village resident who is very well and independent expressed concern, “Ruth, I feel so sorry for many.” She described a husband in a special care unit and his wife still in their apartment, but they cannot see each other; residents who are already encumbered with a wheelchair, cane or walker and some with medical problems are now also suffering from loneliness. So, I hear people say, ‘It’s like our lives have been taken away’”. But she quickly added, “The management is doing a wonderful job protecting our lives by following all the guidelines. I’m not lonely because I’m able to get around and have children, relatives and friends emailing or calling. Many residents are not from around here, do not have children, computers or cell phones. They are simply lost.”
Seniors eating alone, watching TV alone with visitation curtailed threatens the pivot of life—communication---which is thwarted big time. What can we do to lift their spirits and offer encouragement or suggestions for entertainment in their apartments? How can we help them be aware of sparkles while they’re stuck alone? Email provides safe, excellent communication for those who have computers or cell phones. Send cards to your senior loved ones. Hearing familiar voices is one of the sparkles of life. So, lean on phone calls for connections. Call often. If she doesn’t see a resident for a few days, my friend calls them. “It’s easy to get depressed when alone” she added. Her ministry continues.
When I’m restricted from doing what I want to do, I ask myself? What difference will it make in a year? And then, I remind myself that “I won’t die if I miss out on a class, trip, vacation, or get together. The most important consideration, in my opinion, is to spend time daily in meditation, prayer, devotionals and wholesome reading and journal events, thoughts and goals. Communicate with as many as you can. I rely on the tight rope system: look back for balance and ahead for perspective. Don’t linger either place. This pandemic will be over eventually. We can only be patient and do the best we can.
I want to reiterate that feeling sorry for ourselves is not a good idea. Acknowledging a situation is positive. If we can’t change a situation, work around it as positively as possible. Whatever we do, we must not allow ourselves to fall into the “poor-me” trap. And it’s good to say throughout the day, “I’m blessed”.
Even though Covid at-risk age has compromised the independence for many seniors, allow your children/friends to drop off meals, groceries and supplies. You, like I, though we are strong and healthy, are still at risk. Cooperate by complying with social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks.
I’ve enjoyed every minute of sharing my secret vacation with you. No surprise to you, but writing the blog is one of my healing sparkles. It’s time for me to call my sister, Jane, a Monday morning sparkle. Do you have a senior sibling or friend who would be delighted to hear your voice?
“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Ps. 118:24
These following verses can get us through anything:
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice!
7 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your
requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers (sisters), whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things. Phil. 4: 4, 6-8 NIV