Sunday, January 31, 2010

Opening Support the Elderly week - a guest blog

To kick off our Support the Elderly week, we wanted to feature a blog written by the writer of the week. Karen T. Hartline wrote all five episodes this week, so we wanted to hear from her.

When I think of the word “elderly,” I think of my grandma. Frieda. She was definitely your old-school kind of grandma. She had gray hair as far back as I can remember, everything she cooked tasted delicious and the only workout she ever did was washing and scrubbing. She was an awesome, outspoken lady packed in a tiny body and you couldn’t help but love her.

This got me thinking about my son, and how he views his grandmother - my mom. My mother takes step class, attends seminars at the Historical Society, teaches night school, and walks faster than me when we’re at the supermarket. Text messaging, Skype, email – check, check, check. While she can tell a mean story about the old days, most of the time, she’s way too busy making plans for what she’s going to do next. In my son’s eyes – she can do no wrong.

It’s funny that my mother is about the same age that my grandmother was when I was my son’s age, yet the two images are so different. Together, these two images are indicative of the vast spectrum of needs of America’s aging population. There are those out there like my grandmother, but perhaps have no one to visit. Then there are those who are more like my mother, but don’t know where or how to apply their energy and talents.

I think the challenge for those who wish to reach out to this community, is to recognize the diverse needs of this population. The more important thing is to decide what your own strengths are, and then figure out who can benefit from them. If your “thing” is getting people together to volunteer for a community project, there are people like my mother – my son’s grandmother - who would love nothing more than to be put to work. But if you love nothing more than having a good conversation, I know from experience with my own grandmother, that you have the ability to make someone’s day.