We fully admit that we are fair-weather walkers. Given the holidays and cold weather, both Mike and I were beginning to experience withdrawal symptoms from not being able to walk our neighborhoods.
So Mike came up with the idea that we walk the senior living facilities on Sundays when the weather is too cold. Mike said that Jessica showed him a youtube of young toddlers interacting with seniors and that is what prompted this kind of walk. There are about ten assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Longmont. We chose The Peaks Nursing Home as our first visit. And oh what a visit it was. It was inspiring, joyful and sobering.
We showed up unannounced and were immediately received by the staff. We discussed our purpose - encouraging people to feel and believe they belong to our community. After our introduction, the staff director gave us authorization to walk around. She "warned" us that people were low functioning and might start complaining about their lives or about the facility. We are not sure when any of you reading this have last been in a nursing home, but the general atmosphere upon our arrival was one of people slowly and quietly moving around in wheelchairs or in their rooms and not ambulatory. In Sunday's walk, there was a certain somberness associated with the atmosphere.
We then began to visit with the residents. Oh my, our hearts are full after this visit. We met with many of the people in the TV room and cafeteria and then walked the hallways and stopped in several individual rooms to meet with people.
We asked each person we met, if they wanted, to tell us a life-story that was meaningful for them at this time. The stories we heard were heartwarming and full of wisdom. Memories of spouses, kids, grandkids, their previous professions and others were touching. In many cases, telling their story became the precipitator for smiles, laughs and hugs - oh and we had a lot of hugs! In one case, a woman told us her daughter was named Natalie as she named her after the famous singer Natalie Cole. We asked her if we could serenade her with one of Natalie Cole's famous songs, "Unforgettable." Her eyes lit up and we began to sing (did a Google for the lyrics). She joined in and what was so wonderful about this moment was that a couple of other residents began singing too. Not ready for prime time but a beautiful rendition in its own unique way.
In another story we met a man who talked about his wife who passed away two years ago and about his 35 years as a mail carrier. His sense of humor was intact when he told us he never met a dog who did not like him. In fact, there was one dog that followed him around his route every day.
We met a former neighbor of Mike's, Barb, who brought Mike up to date on her family. We met a previous Longmont City Council gad-fly, Artie, who remembered how she "gave Mike S--- all the time." We had a big laugh and it did not take long for Artie to let Mike know what he should be doing...
We met Margaret who proudly informed us that she is 99 years old! Her wit and sense of humor emerged as we continued our conversation.
We met so many lovely people who seemed to be thrilled with our being there. We did our best in encouraging them to feel and believe they belonged to our community and to all of us. What is so compelling is our great desire to go back and revisit everyone over and over again. Mike reminded me that starting in 2016, 300 people in Longmont's Public Safety Department will begin walking neighborhoods, parks, business districts and they can follow up with the Senior facilities in our community,
We also talked to several of the staff. They seemed to also appreciate our presence and were eager to tell their stories too! One Latina woman when asked what she thought of Longmont, hugged herself with her arms said in Spanish that she loved Longmont. And of course, we invited people to be more engaged with our upcoming community conversations!
We felt so very uplifted during and after our visit. We hope those we met felt some level of being restored. Oh how our Belonging Revolution can take us places we never imagined!