When Sharon Simpson took her post as Director of Marketing and Communications at Menno Place, BC’s largest campus-of-care located in Abbotsford, BC, she knew her life was about to change, but she didn’t realize how deeply working with elders would impact her. After just 12 months of immersing herself in helping seniors find appropriate housing for their needs, Simpson decided to take a pen to paper and write down her observations of the elders she works with and how they have enriched her life. What follows is Simpson’s article, “Ten Things I Have Learned Since Working In Seniors Care”:
About Sharon Simpson
I am the Director of Communications and Marketing at Menno Place, the largest single-location campus of care in British Columbia. I have been working in this position on the Executive Team for 1.5 years. I began at Menno Place as the director in a key marketing initiative for Primrose Gardens, 105 Independent Living Apartments which were leased up within 18 months of my arriving to join the team…learn more about Sharon at www.sharonsimpson.com.
For more on BCCPA member Menno Place click here or visit www.mennoplace.ca.
Ten Things I Have Learned Since Working In Seniors Care
1. My life is enriched.
I’m not sure exactly how, but my life is better. I think it comes from the perspective that is available when you are with people who are closer to the finish line. Things matter less. People matter more. Heaven is more real. Life is more precious. Laughter is even more enjoyable. Time is valuable. Pleasures are relished. Friendships are gentler.
2. Seniors still feel young inside.
When I ask people how old they feel inside, it never stops amazing me that everyone says a number between 18 and 25 years old. There’s something truly timeless about our person. From the time that we reached adulthood, we continue to feel the same inside. It’s our bodies that are taking the toll of aging, not our souls.
3. Money can’t solve everything.
When we are younger, money seems like a real answer to our problems. With money, you can get a rest (vacation), a break (housekeeper), or a pick-me-up (spa). But there comes a time in life when you can throw all the money at a problem and it can’t solve it anymore (chronic pain or dementia). We look to money as a saviour of sorts, but it’s simply not enough.
4. Relationships mean almost everything.
Barbara Streisand sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world”. Well, then, we are all lucky. We all need people and our need correlates with aging. Nothing can replace the people who give you affection, kindness, understanding and a listening ear. People who connect with other people are, indeed, the most blessed in the world.
5. Generations need each other.
I toured a local Christian school recently. In the kindergarten class, I found my eyes welling up with tears as the class quoted scripture. I realized that these little people would most likely be the ones who will care for me in my elder years. Train them well… I’m going to need you little people!
6. My generation’s not so bad, either.
Recently, a senior told me that because of our friendship he’s starting to believe that young people aren’t so bad after all. I was reminded that offenses between the generations can be healed when we take time to listen and care for each other.
7. I can stay faithful and loyal.
I am encouraged by the faithful marriages that I observe every day. Many seniors face difficult decisions related to caring for their spouse. Those decisions involve care-giving, physical separation or daily visitation. Faithful, loyal, married love is alive and well in our senior communities.
8. I don’t have a clue.
One lunch time, I asked our seniors to raise a hand if they have ever gone hungry – the kind of hungry where you wonder if you’ll ever eat again. Almost every hand in the dining hall went up. I don’t know what it is to be hungry, to experience war, to be an immigrant, to learn a second language, to re-build families after death – and to trust God in and through and in-spite.
9. God shows up.
When transitions and losses of aging are fast and furious, God shows up. His Word encourages and His people carry each other’s burdens. I’m very encouraged when I see seniors caring for each other and trusting the next generation(s) to share their load as well.
10. I have what it takes.
What does it take to cross the generational divide and build friendships two generations older than myself? An authentic heart, a smile, a hug, a genuine word of encouragement, a prayer. Small gestures from a pure heart does make a world of difference.