Monday, January 28, 2013

Old Folks at Home

I have a new job.

Well, not a totally new job; I'm still at the library, but I'm back downtown again, down in the basement, just like the creepy uncle the family doesn't talk about. I work with blind and deaf people, most of whom are old.

Old people seem to like me. Kids, too. I'm not exactly sure why. On one of my site visits last week a woman said, "That was a nice young man" as I left. I am 42.
Substitute Bart with a middle-aged man, and you have a picture of my job.

I do a lot of outreach - going out to senior centers (sort of like day care for old people), retirement homes, and health fairs talking about the services YOU'RE PAYING FOR WITH YOUR TAX DOLLARS.

The senior centers and retirement homes are a mixed lot - sometimes they're sort of depressing, sometimes I can't wait to turn old and get in there. The last senior center I visited had a wide-screen TV and Wii, along with a dog park and vegetable garden. I was ready to sign up. Some are less fancy, but all of them have something interesting; one had a huge bird cage, some have pretty awesome aquariums, and they all have TVs. I don't know how they decide what gets played, but the stereotypes are true - they do watch "Matlock."

But not as much as "The Price is Right," which is almost always on when I show up.

And yes, they really do love their Bingo. I usually go on right after a game, while they're all excited. I was going to try to sneak as many photos of Bingo games or paraphernalia I could get away with and start a Tumblr. Then I thought that would be too much work, so the thought passed.
The stereotypes are true.

I haven't had any bad experiences yet, even if the field of old people isn't as organized as you might think. A couple of months ago I showed up a few minutes early to my appointment and had the following conversation with an activities director:

"Hi, I have an appointment at 11."

"Oh. I didn't think you'd show up today."

"Yeah, well...wait, why not?"

"A lot of people break appointments after they're added on the calendar which upsets the residents, and I assumed you wouldn't show up, so I took them to the gym already."

Not only do I get to talk to old people, I have a regular radio show for the blind (unfortunately, you need a special radio to get it, so it's not like my friends can listen to me or anything) and have been thrown uncomfortably on public access television. I am dominating free old people media!

The job has eased my mind a bit about getting old. For years I've been terrified of it, mostly because I've done a terrible job of planning for the future and have no family, so I had visions of being stuck in the cheapie retirement home where disinterested nurses would ignore me. "But...I was on blind people radio and wrote funny stuff on the internet," I'd mumble, as they plugged into their ibrain to sext their significant others.

That still freaks me out but it's not as big a concern. There's a whole network of people and services out there, and there's still a chance that I'll hit the big money jackpot somehow so I can live out my golden years in the style in which I deserve.

I also think occasionally about that clip that made the rounds on Facebook a while back. Old people with dementia were played music from their youth. Once they heard the music, they started talking and responding, even if they had been non-communicative for months.

Of course, that's fairly easy now, today's old people only had one song growing up, Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." Just like how Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" was the official song of the Vietnam war.

So years from now, some well meaning social worker will queue up "Life is a Highway" or "2 Legit 2 Quit" for me, waiting for my dramatic turnaround, when all I do is retreat deeper into my cranky, uncommunicative shell.

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