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Live actively - no matter your age

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rhenda Wilson took a group of seniors whitewater rafting, at their insistence. They were thrilled with the adventure. She is pictured in the back of the raft, along with the nonagenarian she was responsible for keeping in the raft.

While managing an assisted living facility, I had a resident move in who was 99 years old.

She wanted to use her long-term care insurance. I explained that her insurance required she receive assistance with two activities of daily living in order to use the benefits. I asked her if we could help her dress. “No, I can do that without any difficulty.” I asked about helping her with showers. “Well, why would I need that? I am very limber and can get in and out of the shower myself.” She then kicked her leg high above her head like a Rockette, in perfect balance. I just smiled at her in amazement. I tried to convince her to let us do her laundry but often found her hauling her basket of clothes down the hall. We did not assist her with anything. We were able to find a loop-hole by providing meals and transportation for her so she could use her insurance. She certainly did not need any help.

When we managed an independent living community we asked the residents what they wanted to do for activities. A few said, “We want to do whitewater rafting.” Others thought they were kidding. They were not. One of the residents required assistance with a walker, one was over 90 and one was blind, the others were typical retirement living residents.

We found a rafting company that would provide the correct guides and accept the challenge.

It was a marvelous experience. I sat in the back with the nonagenarian because she only weighed 90 pounds.

My job was to hold onto her when we hit the white water. It was a blast. They loved it. In the calm water we had water fights. There were no old people in those rafts. Everyone was willing to take their fears, face them and have fun as a young person. They followed their heart.

Age is a number. Sometimes our bodies let us down with ailments that can prevent us from doing what we want. However, the fun can still be had; the dance can still be danced; the song can still be sung; the rapids can still be run. Whatever you can dream may be possible. Watching from the sidelines is not always necessary.

“But I hurt. But I might fall. But I would have to take time in the bathroom. But I am in a wheel chair. But I need to take medications at certain times. But, but, but.”

Even if you have pain keep in mind that you can sit idle, bored and depressed with pain or you can continue to be in pain and go find enjoyment. Who knows? You may enjoy yourself enough to forget the pain for a while. You name what you want to do and someone who loves you or someone you don’t even know will make it happen for you. Suddenly, someone will be there to keep you safe, give you your medications, get you to the bathroom, manage your pain and handle your fear.

When my mother-in-law was living with us, abed under hospice care and on oxygen, she became quieter and quieter. We could see that she was getting depressed. We knew she would refuse going anywhere. So my husband strapped a large oxygen tank into the car. We took food, water, incontinence products, medications and her wheelchair. My husband scooped her up and put her in the car. We drove up to Dillon Lake in the Colorado Rockies, a lake she loved over an hour away.

We watched her begin to relax and enjoy the beautiful Colorado she loved. We parked near the lake and put her in the wheel chair. She then said, “Push me closer, so I can put my feet in.” She was hooked. She was glad she had come. Her depression was put away in a box.

Think on a daily basis, “What can I do? What will make my life fuller today? What will lift my burden and place it in a box for the time being. What will lift my mood? What do I want to do? What can I make possible?”

Rhenda Wilson is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult community Center.




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