Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The World Narrows

In my last post I explored in short form some of the similarities between the seniors I met at the residence and myself.

In this series of posts, I'd like to explore that concept further.  How has PTSD and trauma affected and limited my life?  What am I dealing with now?  And how am I navigating these waters?

But first, let's look at the world of the senior.

"The Wall" - in the dining room - decorated with the residents' art
This one doesn't really need an explanation, now does it?
For my beloved seniors, their world has become narrower as they age.  Their major focus at this point in their lives being on the happenings inside the building in which they live.  Besides the daily meals and meds - which are major parts of their day, there are many activities going on throughout the week.  Some inside the building like indoor Bocce (yes, they really have adapted Bocce to the dining room), bingo, sing-a-longs with various individuals and groups, and movies in the family room (they showed Sister Act while I was there), etc.  Others are forays outside which the residents have to sign up for:  excursions to the mall or the local grocery store, transportation for doctors' appointments (a biggee when you're older and your health issues have increased exponentially in recent years).  There was a sign-up excursion into the country the week I was there.  Also, the once a month happening called barber and breakfast, primarily for the guys in which they're taken to the local barber followed by breakfast at a local restaurant.  A lot of their world view comes from the newspaper and television.  Very few at this point in time appear to be computer literate.  But then we're talking about people, some of whom were born before U.S. involvement in World War I; most of whom lived through the roaring '20s and the Depression years and can remember exactly where they were when Pearl Harbour was bombed.  Many of the men - and one woman, Matriarch Bear - served in World War II.  One "younger" senior served in the Korean conflict.  So far, there is no one young enough in the residence to have served in Vietnam.  Yet.

These are men and women who have lived their lives well and still are alert and as active as their health issues allow them to be.  Each has a unique story to tell.  Each had a life before they got old and entered the residence.  Each one still has a life to live.

One of Matriarch Bear's many pieces of artwork

As sight and hearing have degenerated, many have given up driving and rely on others, usually family members, to provide excursions into the outside world regularly attending church with relatives, family dinners, community events, etc.  Matriarch Bear has enjoyed art lessons with one of her cubs, weekly concerts during the summer held alongside the Erie Canal which runs through the town.

The entrance to the world of Matriarch Bear and my friends at the residence
As mobility issues increase, walking becomes confined to the halls of the residence on bad weather days and around the residence on good ones.  For Matriarch Bear and others, health issues make walking any distance a struggle; therefore shrinking their world even further.  Her church is now the weekly service in the family room presided over by a rotation of churches in the area.  Yet, she continues to enjoy her life to the fullest.  Wild horses could not keep her from attending the weekly Bingo - and winning.  Playing games with one of her cubs - and winning.  Her body slowing failing her yet her mind still strong and alert.  Her sense of humour intact.  Her ability to make others laugh sharper than ever.  She - and the others I met that week - are survivors.  Survivors of two world wars, survivors of the Great Depression.  Survivors of the worst life event of all:  aging.  Yet, I've seem them face each new day, each new challenge, with wit, humour, determination.  Forging a new life, a good life - even though narrowed.

These people inspired me while I was visiting them.  Memories of that week inspire me now.

So, going back to the original concept, how did I as a survivor of trauma afflicted with complex PTSD and experiencing the severe affects of latent stress fit in with these people?  What are the similarities?  What causes me to identify so strongly with Matriarch Bear and the other folk I met that week?

What indeed?

Perhaps it is best to leave that answer for tomorrow.  Let these people have a post of their own.  They deserve it.

My hat goes off to them.  My heart goes out to them.

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