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Impressions of the Retirement Home

August 9, 2013

I recently spent two days at a retirement home in Brandon, not because I wanted to live there, but because I was attending my parent’s 72nd wedding anniversary.  While I was there, I gathered a few impressions.  These are generalities and don’t apply to everybody or everything there.  Some of my impressions were mostly from observations of my parents.

There were over a hundred suites, occupied by couples or single people, in the building.  The place was expensive, but one way or another, they could afford to live there.  I assume they all had a retirement income of some sort.  As far as I could tell, they all came from the established population.  They were mostly retired middle class farmers and business people.  They were all older than me, but I realized that they might be me in twenty years.

I soon discovered that there was nothing to do there.  I can’t count the number of times I walked around the outside of the building, mostly out of boredom.  My parents spent their days reading, watching TV, doing crosswords, napping, or waiting for the next meal.  My mother finally told me “Find some reading material”.  Fortunately, I did bring some with me.

The meals were the highlights of the day.  All the residents gathered in the dining room, sometimes well in advance of the time.  Meals were leisurly affairs, with a long wait between courses.  Everybody seemed happy.  People usually are happy when they are being fed.  Meals were also social events.  I noticed a pleasant table conversation, but I also noticed that people sometimes sat in silence.  I suppose this depends on the people.  I’m not a witty conversationalist myself, but I was able to tell other people at the table a few things about myself.  The residents did eat together, and did get to know each other.

All of them seemed to have imfirmities of some sort.  I gathered that they had lived in their own houses until health problems prevented it.  Walkers lined the walls of the dining room.  Most of them were slow moving, riding the elevator rather than taking the stairs.  Some had memory problems.  Some fell asleep.  Some had eyesight problems.  Many had hearing difficulties.  In spite of all this, they were sociable and treated each other well.  All of them seemed happy.

The retirement home offered a variety of activities, but there seemed to be little participation in them.  Of course, they are free to choose not to participate.  Do people mostly stay in their rooms?  Maybe they had to withdraw from outside activities while they were still living at home.  I suppose they find it difficult now to develop new interests.  Maybe they need somebody else to take them along and show them what do do at these activities.  Maybe they prefer different activities and need others to participate in them.  A little push may be all they need.

Most of the people seemed to be physically inactive.  The exercise room is mostly unused.  I’m sure that my father could benefit from more physical activity.  I did get him to try the machines, but only after I suggested that all three of us were going to check them out.  Both my parents did well on the machines.  I was surprised at how much energy I expended on the ones I tried.  I hope they keep doing this when I’m not there.  I wonder if most of the residents can’t see the benefits of exercise, even at their age.  Perhaps they are too tired to exercise.  That sounds like a trap to me.  Perhaps movement is painful to them.  In that case, I can understand why they would avoid exercise.

At this retirement home, everything is done for them, including meals, cleaning, laundry, and transportation.  Their bus service is excellent.  They will take people to shopping centres or appointments, and pick them up again afterwards.  The staff are excellent, friendly and responsive.  As far as I can tell, their response to any request is always “yes”.  The food too is excellent.  It’s well-prepared and varied, with alternatives always available.  Portions are small but adequate for older people who are inactive.  The grounds of the retirement home are beautiful.  Most of it is professionally landscaped and maintained.  Some of the planting is done by residents, with plants supplied by the retirement home.

I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to live there.  I prefer to be in my own environment, in my own home.  Even though it sounds pleasant, I don’t want all of my needs taken care of.  Right now, I prefer to do most of those things myself.  Maybe in the future I’ll change my mind, but I’m not ready yet.

The people living there do need to be there.  I’m even wondering if they resented seeing me so active.  I walked around the building many times.  I took the stairs rather than the elevator.  I doubt this, as they were all pleasant and friendly.  I have no doubt that this retirement home is the best place for the people living there.  I have no doubt that they are happy there.

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