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Misconceptions of Aging

153. Misconceptions of Aging

I worked for thirteen years with the elderly as a music therapist, eleven years in a nursing home in Rockland County, and two in a nursing home in Westchester. Sometimes as I told people where I worked they expressed sympathy and I would ask them what their thoughts are as they think of people who living in a nursing home. Sometimes they said they thought of despair, gloom, emptiness, loneliness, broken people.

My experience in those years was of knowing people with grit, history, humor, stature, wholeness, and rich lives. There was one woman who as I helped her write down some of her memories, thought of her years in a university in Ohio. They held tryouts for the track team and she showed up, not knowing that women weren’t allowed, but the coach said, “Let’s see you run anyway.” And when she ran, he asked her to come back the next day to show the guys how to do it.

There were two women who eventually shared a room. Both of them had made the arrangements themselves to live at that nursing home and both had sons who kept inviting them to come live with them, but these two women were still in charge of their lives. They created their schedules every day—they picked what they wanted to do. They were still quite busy—living.

I don’t pretend that this was true of everyone in both nursing homes. But I do maintain that each person I met was doing the very best they could at that time in their life. I loved my work there. I loved getting to know individuals and then accompanying them right up to their last day.

 

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