I have been fortunate to learn about aging through reading, and also through friends who are involved with AGE of Central Texas. AGE is a nonprofit that believes in the vision of “a society where aging is a shared journey marked by connection, strength, and vitality, and the role of caregiving is supported through the community, collaboration, and guidance.” This plays out concretely in programs that provide social and wellness centers, education for caregivers, memory work, computer labs for seniors, and even a health equipment lending program.
My husband and I learned of AGE while his mother was declining and experiencing so many of these issues and although we were not the on-site caregivers for his mom, we were able to share some practical tips we learned and eventually we got my mother (who lives locally) interested in volunteering with the nonprofit. Her participation is intermittent, depending on how she is feeling, but when she goes she is energized by the experience. She spends time in the Thrive Social & Wellness Center talking with participants and answering the phone and she loves it.
I have always suspected that when you rest, you rust, and this week I learned that lesson once more. I sat next to a retired physician at an event for a children’s literacy organization (BookSpring). I met him when he won an award for his vision and work at the birth of that nonprofit. He was polite and very attentive in our conversation about the intersections that can be found between children and seniors and in his quiet authoritative way he began to outline an idea he was having for a project where residents of the retirement home he and his wife have just moved into could possibly come and spend a morning at an elementary school, reading to classes. He had been thinking as we talked, and he had ideas on how to propose and then execute such a venture. As a long-time Rotarian, he was accustomed to grants, programs, and making them work for the benefit of the community.
I told him I thought it was a fabulous idea and I would love to see it come about. I also commented on his agile mind and a seemingly endless urge to help others. He laughed, and said, “You see that guy down at the end of the table? Well, I won’t even sit NEXT to him because he is much older than me but his ideas come so fast and furious I feel like ducking!” He laughed and I made a mental note to meet “that guy!”
Many of us will battle with memory issues as we age, and the time may come when we can no longer learn or create, but I think that those who stay open to learning, to innovation, and to helping others will enjoy the journey to that point much more. They may even delay it, but of course, there are no guarantees. Keeping our bodies and minds active will make the time we have more enjoyable, vital, and maybe even more memorable.
If you are caring for an aging person in Central Texas, check out the resources and help at AGE. Their knowledge and compassion will help you understand what is happening with your loved one, create coping skills, and will encourage you to practice self-care.