Sometime in my late 20’s, I started volunteering at this assisted living center for women.
It is where I got my first impression of options for aging seniors.
The place had been serving women for over 100 years.
The facilities were lovely, very home-like, welcoming, well-maintained.
The food was excellent, the social calendar was full.
But there was something else. There was the loneliness.
A few times a year, I went there with a group of young women as part of a community service effort. We dined with them, engaged them in conversation, crafts, sing-a-longs, holiday gift exchanges, etc.
The women I remember were wealthy, well-adorned, flawlessly groomed, of reasonably good health. They came to dinner with diamonds, pearls, tailored dresses, fur wraps.
They also came with pictures. Family photos of the folks who had mostly left them behind.
They knew of the financial support, but complained of infrequent visits, the phone calls that seldom came, the lack of presence.
I always left there with a sense of sadness. These were not the poor, disadvantaged or disenfranchised. These were women who gave their life to their families, the ones who had now safely housed them away.
Or so it seemed.
I’m sure there were other stories. The ones they didn’t want to share. The family quarrels, the separation, the alienation, over issues both important and ridiculous.
But still. They were alone. They went there to die.
It’s the first thing that came to mind when my mother-in-law moved to an independent living community. She has a large, lovely apartment. She lives quite independently. She still has her home, just in case.
I think I understand why she is reluctant to sell it. A backup plan.
Maybe even an escape route.
Time will tell.