If ever there was lesson in what it means to be one of the elderly in this country, with serviceable skills, even a quick mind, but a body that has begun to betray you, read the recent entry at the above link to Chuck Ferris' journal. He's a 79 year old former teacher residing in an assisted living facility. It sounds like the needs of the inmates, because the residents are inmates in a way, are met according to the guidelines of the local state authorities, but the violence to one's self esteem and devastating disregard for simple human needs is rampant.
Here's my fictionalized version of the story Chuck tells:
Jerdine had spent her whole life in that house. She had worked a fulltime job, too, until the stroke left her with limited speech and other problems. Her children were also concerned about her health and safety in that big place and kept urging her to sell it.
If you had lived a useful, productive life, owned your own home, tended to your garden, and took care of yourself without any help, but your health deteriorated suddenly, what would you do?
Soon Jerdine's house had become an insurmountable burden for her. She finally agreed to sell it along with many of her beloved possessions and move. It was hard the day she had to leave the lovely garden she had nourished for many years and live in comfortable, but reduced circumstances at an assisted living facility.
Moving to a new place hasn't been easy on top of her disability. With her impaired speech, it is difficult to understand what she says unless you are very patient.
Like most adults, she has been used to making her own rules and now she was going to have to follow someone else's. She missed her house, all her neighbors and old friends. She missed working in her garden. All she had now were small living quarters, so she began to fill her one room apartment with lots of plants.
There were days when the depression could be crushing. It didn't help that there wasn't very much to occupy the residents there. To fill her time she found herself taking walks around the grounds.
Gradually, she began to meet other residents and even make some friends, although speaking will always be a struggle. Luckily, patience is greater among people who have their own afflictions. One day, she happened to notice that there were roses growing around the property. The early summer blooms had come and gone and needed to be removed so the plants could flower again. If anyone knew how to care for roses, it was Jerdine. So she set about taking care of them the way she used to care for the ones in the garden she had to leave behind.
One day a superviser saw her fussing over the plants and warned her not to pick the flowers, missing the point entirely. She tried to explain that she was just removing the old blooms so that there would be new ones, but her speech was garbled and the busy bureaucrat just pretended he knew what she said, rushing passed her and waving hastily in her direction.
Soon there were buds and she was elated, telling one of the other residents that there should be new flowers by the coming weekend. Unfortunately, bureaucracy and callous disregard for someone's hard work and care have conspired to destroy her efforts. A hired crew came in one day before she got there and cut down all the rose plants almost to the ground.
The bursting buds, now crushed and gone, won't bloom again until next year. And the gentle spirit that nurtured them has no doubt wilted too.