We recently had a person come to our center asking about available volunteer opportunities. They also talked with us about their spouse and their growing level of inactivity. Apparently, this person had told their significant other they would bring them to the senior center if they didn’t get more active.
I was taken aback by that. I had never thought attending the senior center could be a punishment for getting older. I thought about it and realized that many people don’t understand aging or what we do at our center and why.
We are all getting older, rich and poor alike. I know it’s difficult for many to imagine. Finding out that you can no longer easily move around safely just happens. As people age, their ability to do many things they once did with ease, will diminish. This includes simple things like standing up and walking. Most people take the ability to walk safely for granted. Seniors who need help walking can use all sort of appliances to assist them in staying mobile. Canes, walkers and in some cases wheelchairs are needed for safe navigation. The fact is that one out of three people over 65 will fall this year. The question is not if will you fall but more like when you will fall. It’s not the seniors fault, they aren’t careless or not paying attention to where they are going. It just happens.
Driving ability also can diminish with age. As we age, we don’t react as fast and our vision isn’t as good as it used to be. Driving is second nature to a person who has been operating a car for 50 years but again, if you live long enough your skills will likely erode. Both men and women are driving long past their ability to safely drive. According to AARP, for men it is 6 years and women it is 10 years. We have a lot of seniors in Wickenburg that probably shouldn’t keep driving so we started the Freedom Express Senior transportation. The Freedom Express assists people who want to remain active but can no longer safely drive. We will take seniors anywhere in Wickenburg they want to go. In the last four years, we have provided over 26,000 rides for free.
Social isolation is another common and potentially dangerous situation for seniors. AARP states that 28% of seniors in the United States live alone. In Wickenburg, this represents over 700 people! This isolation can lead to depression which may be more debilitating to their health than smoking! Many seniors don’t eat properly and half of the reported cases of Elder Abuse find seniors neglecting their own wellbeing. Not eating properly or not eating at all. We serve 11,500 nutritious lunches annually at our Wickenburg center. How do you combat depression, loneliness and hunger? We have hundreds of people who attend our center during the year for many different reasons. The food, activities or the socialization. I seriously doubt if any of them feel like they are being punished or neglected.
Since most of us will spend some time over the age of 60, maybe we should think about the reality of growing older. Life is unpredictable and the older we are, the more unpredictable our lives will be. We welcome all seniors 60 and over to come and enjoy our center. We have a full activity calendar and there is always something happening. You can usually find someone to talk with just about any time of day. We at FSL are proud of the work we do and the people’s lives that are touched and supported by our efforts.
To the person who told their spouse they would bring them to the center, please do! It may turn out to be one of the best things you ever did for them.