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Day Two

Is it Saturday or Sunday? Somehow it feels like Sunday. Must be the silence… I can vividly recall Sundays in the school hostel. Most employees left just after lunch. We got sandwiches for supper that were made on Friday afternoon already and kept in the fridge. Sandwich spread. Marmite. Jam. Soggy and cold when we got them unwrapped on a Sunday afternoon. But today is Saturday. I think?

I vividly remember the trappings of institutionalisation. A bell rings to announce supper/study time/bedtime/ getting up time. A routine menu – Friday sh. Pudding three times a week. Toppers. Sago pudding. I hated it. Every single moment of it. Perhaps that is the reason why I feel so passionately about changing the system of locking older people up in so-called “care” homes.

We create dependence. We kill individuality. We discourage individual thinking. Would this virus perhaps contribute to a global rethink of locking down people simply because they are old? Would it make us rethink our attitude towards older, vulnerable people? Maybe it will take a pandemic of this nature to make us change our minds.

I am intrigued by the lack of resident participation in some of our homes. Why do residents not queue to offer their help? Why are not volunteering to assist the employees who are skeleton numbers? Are they lazy? Scared? I don’t think so. I think we have created a system where very few residents have the confidence to step up, to offer their help. We have created a generation of older people in care homes who have lost their individuality, and their gravitas. We made them helpless.

Somehow, I hope this virus will change this phenomenon. I am waiting for residents to see how much we need their help, how valuable their contributions would be, and how needed their wisdom, guidance and support are to the employees. Maybe this virus will bring about an awakening, a realisation that they are not old and useless.

Maybe this virus will encourage and engage people to see how privileged they are to live in a Care Home where everything is provided for them. I hope so. I really and truly hope that we will see a change that comes with the threat. A change that will bring about an opportunity to give and not just receive. To be of service and not just to be served.

Every Elder is equipped with a lifetime of experience. Now is the time to explore this, to bring out of the mothballs. To participate, activate and celebrate. Life is precious. Now is the time to live it!

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