Every evening Foxy and I walk to the elevator past our neighbor’s apartments as the sun sinks in the West and the light goes from peach to dark blue. Since the heat in Las Vegas Nevada has dropped, one of my neighbors who is in her mid-70s keeps her front door open to let the heat out and the cool air in.
Foxy, a little chihuahua-terrier mixed dog, rushes inside to great her. My neighbor used to have dogs many years ago. Now she lives in a senior independent apartment and doesn’t have room or energy for a dog. Just for a moment she smiles and pets Foxy. Foxy’s tail wags continuously until the neighbor quits petting her.
We do this every day unless I feel sick. On those days I will get a call from my neighbor to see if I am okay. She misses Foxy and she misses our talks. We will visit and talk about family, life, and illness. We will talk mostly about experiences–like having dogs or working. My neighbor worked in a casino most of her adult life. She has severe lung problems because of it.
When I was a child, I knew a lot of families who welcomed their grandparents into their homes. We live in such a different age now where the elderly is put away where from their families. The knowledge of the elderly is lost.
I laugh because when I stop and talk to them I find out that one grandmother has cancer and goes on the bus every other day to get radiation treatment. She doesn’t tell her grandson because he is taking care of a wife who also has cancer. Just last week an man in his mid sixties died. I met him and he didn’t look sick on the outside.
Every day we see paramedics in this area. Some of the elderly come back and some don’t. I talked to a man who had just turned 84. “All of my family and friends are dead now,” he said. “I am alone.”
Sometimes I wonder why we have gone to warehousing our elderly. At one point they held the knowledge of their tribes. They still hold the knowledge of their families. Every day we lose more knowledge as they die.
Aging is not fun. Many of these folks who are living the long life are grumpy from pain and from loneliness. Some of them spend their days gossiping. They are people after all. They are also the trailblazers to what comes next.