Living in a household of eight, with both my grandmothers, I was exposed to the beauty of books, playing games, laughter and learned to appreciate the value of generational strengths. My family showed me the power of engagement in activities of daily living, meaning every one had tasks that made our family “village” run. MomMom Bertha was the laundry Queen, made a killer pound cake and reveled reading my English compositions and giving feedback. Meanwhile, Grandmom Marie breaded the smelts, darned socks and a voracious appetite for news and reading made her a wonderful conversationalist.
Then there was my Great Aunt Hilda, the Aunt whose house you always wanted to visit, because she had a totally pink bathroom, down to the Rosemilk soap and fluffy shag rug yet more than that was the life of the party and lived life out loud. She loved to connect with people through jokes, music and games. Aunt Hilda always made people feel welcomed, wanted, connected. She was a guiding star in my life. I accompanied my Aunt on Sundays to visit my great Grandmother in a nursing home and would see folks who appeared lonely and my Aunt encouraged me to go and sit with folks. This experience revealed that each person has hidden treasures waiting to be discovered and that someday I too will want someone to sit with me. That pivotal point cinched that serving elders would be in my future and thirty years later here I am in the best profession on earth!
I am deeply grateful to my Mother who supported my various senior communities with donations, book suggestions or loaned family antiques when we hosted the annual country fair. And to the many pioneers who helped to pave the way for this profession, specifically Anne D’Antonio-Nocera, Nancy DeBolt, Cat Selman, Dr. Peckham, Mary Miller, Nadine Touhey, and my best team leader and mentor Pam Keely. Every elder I have been blessed to serve has gifted me with wisdom, humanity and invaluable life lessons . As Thomas Edison said “the secret to success is making your vocation your vacation.” I view each day with curiosity because the human spirit is not linear rather ever changing. May we encourage one another across the life span, continue advocating for quality eldercare and the power of engagement and the importance of play with gusto!