Thursday, June 26, 2008

Communications 101: Back to the Basics

Most of us tend to be social creatures. Emotionally, we need interaction with other people.

The week after my mother's funeral, Dad began attending Tuesday and Thursday senior lunch programs just a couple blocks from his home. He already knew several people who attended and has met many more during the past four years.

For a while he enjoyed the day trips offered through the Senior Center, but due to his eyesight he decided he was no longer able to attend.

That same week, he also purchased a motorized vehicle which enabled him to get around town. Driving himself to the dentist, barbershop, drug store, and several local restaurants gave him a freedom he had not experienced in quite a while.

Dad and his brother were born with limited eyesight. He attended the School for the Blind during his high school years. Dad was also color blind most of his life due to a childhood illness. He has not had a drivers license since his thirties and has had to depend on others for transportation for many years.

His travels around town, connecting with other people, provided him a social life he would not otherwise have enjoyed.

Dad belongs to the local Masonic Temple and has actively participated in their meetings as well as attended meetings in several neighboring towns. His fellow Masons provide rides to most of the functions. I tease him about his "guys night out", but I believe it has helped him after the loss of his wife.

Between the Senior Center and the Masons, Dad has something to look forward to other than sitting in his chair and watching TV or listening to his talking books. When I first moved in with him, I noticed his struggle with depression. Being actively involved in outside activities has brought him new energy and the opportunity to look to the future.

On another communication note: This afternoon I am meeting a friend at our local cappuccino spot for coffee and conversation. In her early 70's, she provides care for her eighty-five-year- old husband who has Alzheimer's. We met through a local writers group in the fall of 2006 and meet on occasion to chat. With mid-eighties men and a love of writing in common, we enjoy our time together.

We need our social time, whether we are the senior needing care or the caregiver in need of respite. Having a specific place to go, meeting new people or touching base with old friends, enlarging our circle and opening our minds to new and varied topics provides us the opportunity to keep moving forward.

As we age we are sometimes tempted to spend too much time dwelling on the past. Our social network helps us plan and anticipate, look forward to the next meeting, laugh, enjoy, and experience life outside the home, at least for a couple of hours.

If possible, reach out today and connect with a friend. You'll be glad you did.

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