Posted tagged ‘elderly’

Living Longer, Living With Purpose

March 3, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W                                                         March 3, 2018


My father passed away two weeks ago three months shy of his 90th birthday. He lived a long life, and for that we are thankful. Carol and I are now the oldest generation of our family. There is no one above us and two generations below us.

Death makes a person ponder and think about where he/she is in the living of their life. I turn 64 in two months and, although I’m fairly healthy and active, I understand that I’m closer to entering the pearly gates than I am to the memories of those high school days.

There’s more research and study being done of the longest-living people around the world. Are there common themes? Are there communities that have a higher percentage of people who are a hundred years of age or older? Are there certain aspects of our world’s opportunities that tend to decrease the possibilities of living longer?

Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones and The  Blue Zones solution draws out some secrets of living long in his books. Blue Zones are places that he has identified in different places around the world that have a high number of people who live long lives. It’s interesting that Loma Linda, California is the only Blue Zone he mentions in his sharing of information with TIME magazine in the February 26, 2018 issue. Loma Linda is a haven for Seventh-Day Adventists, a denomination that avoids meat; eats plenty of plants, whole grains, and nuts; and emphasizes community and a day of rest (Sabbath) each week. Loma Linda Adventists live 10 years longer than their fellow Americans.

This is not to convince everyone to become Seventh Day Adventists, but rather to note a few of the trends that seem to be “preaching” to us.

Community, rest, diet, and (I’m putting this one in there as well!) purpose. Howard Friedman, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside also draws out the importance of some of the values that are a part of a faith community and our religious traditions: respect, compassion, gratitude, charity, humility, harmony, and meditation. Of course, when a faith community becomes more about power, bickering, discord, and being judgmental the opposite can happen. People can lose their spiritual relationship in the midst of the chaos of congregational dysfunction.

Although I grieve that my dad has passed on, I rejoice in the fact that he lived a long life that had purpose. All of those values that Friedman draws out as a part of a faith community were also evident in Dad’s life.

And the thing is…people are more and more wondering how to live longer and seeking to live longer, but living longer just to live longer is kind of like hitting the golf ball twice as many times during a round of golf. It’s not really what it’s about! Living with purpose and, hopefully, longer…like my father, is where I seek for my life to follow!

Senior Place

June 24, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               June 24, 2017


Back in the 60’s there was a TV series that attracted a large following. Peyton Place, for that time period, sizzled with drama. At it’s hey day ABC was airing three episodes a week. It was a soap opera aired in the evening. Some good Baptists had to face the dilemma of watching a TV show with questionable morals versus their belief in leading the pure life. As a result curtains got pulled shut to hide their giving into the temptation. Peyton Place was a diversion to those of us who lived lives with minimal drama, ate macaroni and cheese at least once a week, and didn’t wear anything that hadn’t been bought at J.C. Penney’s (where my mom worked!).

In this age of reality TV shows that I cringe at involving teenage moms, wayward Amish, dance moms, and “You’ve got to be kidding me!” wives, I think there’s a place for Senior Place. It might not have the steamy sex of the 60’s hit TV series, but a large part of our population could identify with the issues, crises, and life situations.

My dad’s senior complex, a nicely situated thirty resident building called Wyngate, located on the banks of the Ohio River, could host the show.

Here’s a few of the episode elements that would become evident.

Meal complaints- It’s just about impossible to satisfy thirty elderly people who have been accustomed to eating what they want. One of the main complainers is an over-the-top gentlemen who is loud and demanding. At a recent residents’ meeting he was quick to point out that there were a couple of things in their contract that weren’t being fulfilled in regards to meals. Of course, I had noticed that he had been bringing his dog to breakfast with him and giving him a feast of bacon every morning. That probably wasn’t a part of the contract either. His dog was showing the effects of too much bacon consumption. His nickname could have been “Porky!”

Meal conversations often focus on something that was served in the past. “Do you remember those lima beans we had last week?”  “Weren’t those mashed potatoes a little lumpy last night?” And yet, the chef of Wyngate comes out and talks to them, fixes salt-free entrees for people like  my dad, and converses with them like she is one of their daughters. The women who help in the dining room- Robin, Gail, and Valerie- are incredible and caring. The food simply becomes a conversation piece in the midst of their community living.

History Lessons- I’m a history buff, and I was always amazed at the history shared at meal tables. My dad was in the Navy, and two other men who live at Wyngate were stationed in Norfolk, Virginia where he was stationed. A story that one of them tells usually resulted in two other stories that the other thought of as the first one is being told. Some stories get told numerous times because although they remember fascinating accounts of the past they seem to forget that they’ve already told it so often that the listeners know it even better than the Pledge of Allegiance. They are the Appalachian version of Prairie Home Companion! Stories are punctuated with knee-slapping laughter.

Drama Because of Hearing Problems- Half of the residents can’t hear the fire alarm when it goes off…thus necessitating the flashing lights! Conversations are interrupted with the question “What was that?” every twenty words or so. Something said at a dinner table on one side of the room can frequently be heard by those…who can hear…on the other side of the room because of the limited hearing of someone at the table where it is spoken! I’m positive there has been Peyton Place drama created by miscommunications because of the elements of deafness and misplaced hearing aids.

Companionship- The heartwarming element of concern for others is the over-riding feature of Senior Place at Wyngate. The residents watch out for one another. They care about one another. When my dad was in the hospital recently a man named Chuck came to visit him. Chuck can’t hear diddly, which made the visit a little bit awkward, but he cared enough about my father to check in on him. That’s the part of Wyngate that my dad loves the most. When you’re 89 you could care less about things like a hot tub, exercise room, and cook-to-order omelettes, but if you know that there’s a group of people on the same journey of “getting older” with you it makes the final years a bit more tolerable!

Aging Parents From Five States Away

May 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             May 21, 2017


My dad turns 89 on June 18! Unfortunately, on May 18 he was a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia! He will continue to be there for two or three more days as he deals with a heart situation and limited strength.

And I am five states and two time zones away…in Colorado! My sister, nominated by me for sainthood, lives close by and keeps watch over Pops. I am so thankful for her tireless efforts to make sure he is okay. She has her own younger family generations to keep watch over, including seven grandkids, but she always finds the time to check in on Dad.

The assuredness of her on-site supervision gives me some degree of peace, but not totally. I’m experiencing what so many adult children are going through…living a long distance from their elderly parents. Some families move mom or dad, or both, close to where they live. Sometimes that works, but often it’s the worst solution. To move Mom or Dad away from where their peers live is usually emotionally and socially damaging.

Having my sister two miles away from Dad, and my brother about a three hour drive away, means I don’t have to worry about moving Dad to high-elevation Colorado. That thankful solution, however, does not eliminate the sense of helplessness. Carol and I will be flying back to Ohio in just about three weeks- being there for his 89th!- but each day of separation from my father includes an ongoing element of emotional anxiety. A question wraps itself around my mind: Is he okay today?

There was a time when we wanted distance from our parents. They were impeding our independence. They would ask us embarrassing questions in front of our friends, like “When are you going to be home?” We didn’t want to hear any more of their questions. In our opinion, they didn’t know anything! They were old-fashioned and not understanding of the times. Many of us went through that phase. We wanted to go away to college…so they wouldn’t see some of the things we wanted to do!

But then we hit the mid-twenties and had kids! And suddenly we had the questions and we needed them for answers as we entered the new territory of parenthood. The public library had books on parenting, but nothing came even close to the wisdom of our parents. They counseled us through those “life lab” situations.

Like a light switch we’ve flipped back and forth with our parents as life circumstances have changed, from dependent to independent to dependent to independent…

Perhaps at this time in my dad’s life, in a strange way, I’m even more dependent on him. He is the solution to my helplessness. My emotional wellness is dependent on knowing he is okay and cared for. That comes from the memories of experiences. Dad taught me how to ride a bicycle and a few years later how to drive. He taught me how to mow the lawn and how to tie a neck tie. He became my mom’s caregiver as she struggled with health problems. He modeled a walk with Christ, taught Sunday School for years and was, and is, a deacon.

It does something to you when you go to the cemetery with one of your parents, see where the other parent has already been laid to rest, and see the name of the one still standing beside you already on the grave marker. It hits you deep in your soul that these days with him are precious and few in number.

In reflection, I am thankful for these feelings I have of helplessness. They are the dividends of relational investment.


February 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 4, 2017


My dad has had a January to forget. Two weeks in the hospital…one week home…and then back in the hospital for another week. He loved the nurses, but disliked the meatloaf.

So I had the opportunity to fly in for a few days and be with him. My dad turns 89 in about four months. He’s no spring chicken! In fact, his spring sprung a while ago. The times I’m able to come back to the southern tip of Ohio from the elevation of Colorado are special, deeply personal, and filled with shared stories.

Yesterday I walked with him down to the dining room of his senior adult apartment complex. A slow walk, but a steady walk. When he arrived he made the rounds, giving a hug to each of the women who, I swear, all initiated the embrace. He shook the hands of each man before setting down at a table with two of his peers, Leo and Dale. It was Dad’s first meal taken in the midst of the gathered “white hairs”, and it brought a sense of exhilaration to the 25 or so. He is loved and appreciated, always ready to give a warm word of greeting and an engaging question.

Then it was back to his apartment to sit and talk. Three days earlier I had “grandbaby-sat” for a two year old. Now I was “Dad-sitting” a man who was almost twenty-six when I was born!

We shared stories about teaching, his military service, Kentucky basketball, and all the nice nurses who cared for him at the hospital. Our conversation wound its way through the many rooms of our lives, one door leading towards the next one on the other side of the story.

I told him stories from my recent three-week teaching stint and the one student that I sent to have a chat with the assistant principal, and he told me about the student who he had a difficult  time with when he was student teaching high school agricultural science.

We got on the topic of security guards at schools, banks, and other places, and he recalled the pre-security days at the Social Security Administration office he managed…the times when an irate citizen had to be calmed down simply with words, not a Taser gun!

We have a way in our culture of devaluing our older folks, minimizing their relevance and becoming deaf to their voices. Thankfully I’ve come to the point of seeing how treasured my life is because of the father I have. The occasions of “Dad-sitting” are dwindling, shared moments waning, and I breathe each one of them in as if they are my last sip on water in a long journey.

Tomorrow I’ll watch the Super Bowl with Dad. I can’t remember the last Super Bowl we watched together! It may actually be the first time we’ll share the moment. The game will become secondary to just being together. I’m sure we’ll laugh at some of the commercials and take bathroom breaks while Lady GaGa is being a spectacle. We’ll talk about the Cleveland Browns of the 60’s, the Ironton High School Fighting Tigers, and recall when my big brother came back from an away game that the Williamstown High School football team had played on a Friday night and said to Dad, “Look Dad! Real mud!”

We will simply sit and enjoy the moment. The depth of life is made from moments like these.

Cake For Seniors

June 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            June 22, 2016


They were ready to pounce. The ladies and man (as in solo!) at Dad’s birthday party were ready for the cake. If my dear Aunt Lizzie, who always stared at her wrapped Christmas present like it was a Rembrandt, had been there she would have said “It’s too pretty to cut into!” But Aunt Lizzie arrived in Glory a couple of decades ago so she wasn’t there to hold back the cake lovers.

Dad’s cake, with two eights rising out of it, was a tribute to his University of Kentucky roots. The white icing was outlined in Kentucky blue, which is much easier on the eyes than “Tarheel Blue!” He stood behind it and gave one forced puff to extinguish the small flames on the two eights. Blowing out two candles is not seen as being much of an accomplishment, unless you are surrounded by a crowd of seniors who are all crowding ninety!

There was applause for the disappearance of the candle flames, and Robin, the lady who my dad loves and trusts with a knife, commenced to cutting. I passed out the plates. No one passed on the cake. Tongues were licking the outside of lips even before the cake arrived in front of the partygoers. Seniors like cake. It is seen as a valid. almost mandatory, reason for disregarding their dietary restrictions.

Conversation eased a bit as the mature audience focused on their next bites. There’s a time to talk and there’s a time to be quiet. If white icing is involved hold on to that story that was in the midst of being told. We’ll get back to it… if we remember!

My dad looked out at the people gathered in the dining room and he smiled. These were people who were a part of his journey. One of them he had taught how to give insulin shots to. She was scared to death and he had coached her to the point where she could do it herself. Another lady, Valerie, who works at his senior apartment complex, had come back from her Myrtle Beach vacation a day early to be in attendance…and to show the envious women that her skin tone had undergone a noticeable change. The senior women, who had talked about getting bikinis, now recognized that the cake they were enjoying was not going to help them look “bikinish!” Some of them were thinking that they would just ease off the carrots at dinner to compensate!

Dad appreciated each one of them. He had a stack of cards, some beautifully written and others filled with jokes about being as old as Methuselah! He laughed and thanked and paused to enjoy. The only hurry in the occasion was getting the cake cut. After that, people had nowhere to go but to finish reading the Saturday Herald-Dispatch, check the mail, and sink into afternoon slumber in their recliners.

The rest of the cake was moved to the kitchen, and would be served at dinnertime. The ladies  smiled at the future sweet offering. It would make the dinner spaghetti seem tolerable.

Dad was filled with joy and gratitude. After he had blown out the candles someone had asked him what he wished for, and with his quick wit he had replied, “Eighty-nine!”

The ladies “amen-ed” that. It would mean another cake!


June 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 18, 2016


My dad is celebrating his eighty-eighth birthday today! Unreal!

He is the last of the generation immediately above Carol and me on the age pyramid, a gentle gentleman who never seems to be rushed in the sharing of wisdom. Wisdom and advice needs to be dished out and savored like smooth Kentucky bourbon whiskey…slowly and with great contemplation. I wouldn’t know, but my older brother, a tour guide at the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery outside of Frankfort, has told me so.

It is remarkable that my dad, Laurence Hubert Wolfe, has made it this far. He has overcome a boatload of challenges through his nine decades…if you round it off to the nearest whole number. Named after two Baptist ministers, Laurence and Hubert, who helped his dad get out of the bottom of the drinking problem barrel, Dad brought us up Baptist. My brother, sister, and I frequented services and events at church three times a week…Wednesday night, Sunday morning and evening. I equated the trusted firmness of Dad’s arm with the unwavering love of God, as I leaned up against him about the time Pastor Zachary launched into his sermon. I will never know how heavy my head felt to him by the time the sermon was rounding thirty minutes and heading for an hour, I just knew that my “lean-to” never wilted.

That memory, that picture, is a telling illustration of who my father has been and still is. Consistent, solid, dependable, tender, strongly compassionate.

Dependability seems to be in short supply these days, as fathers do their own thing and seek to romance whatever or whoever pleasures them. Dads who stay the course, who keep their promises, are a rare breed.

Dad has been that rare breed. Interestingly enough, my siblings and I didn’t know that was unusual. We thought our dad was like all the other dads. We thought all dads embraced their wives in the midst of the kitchen, like my dad did, and then obediently would give my mom a kiss after she had said to him “Kiss me slobber lips, I can swim!” We thought that was normal! We thought we were normal! We thought all dads were patient, and all dads were home on Sunday nights after church eating popcorn and watching Ed Sullivan on TV. We thought all dads listened to their wives vent about what Myrtle had said to Thelma about Betty’s potato salad that had been brought to the Penney’s employees’ potluck that day. In those days there were no baseball games on TV to divide a husband’s attention, so Mom had both of Dad’s ears…and she used them with no consideration of moderation. Like Dad’s arm in the Central Baptist Church sanctuary pew, he was my mom’s “lean-to” for listening. He stayed with her in the midst of her rational and irrational moments.

Moving ahead a few decades he also stayed with her as she dealt with ill health, and then became bedridden, and then as her illnesses took away her ability to verbalize her thoughts and feelings. In their sixty-five years of marriage he had heard her say enough to know what she was thinking even when she could no longer say it. Even in the midst of Mom’s confusion towards the end of her life when she thought that Rachel Ray was Dad’s new girlfriend because her picture was on the front of a magazine laying by her bed, Dad stayed the course.

Now that he has his own apartment in a senior adult living complex that is heavily populated by widows, and lean on widowers, he gets to listen to a swarm of women every day. And they love him! He’s now the lean-to for a bunch. Valerie, Bonnie, and Bernice bring him his morning newspaper. Bernice is 93! She looks at his dinner plate as he passes by to see if he is eating healthy, even though she isn’t! Bonnie’s door is right across the hall from Dad’s staring at it, in his son’s opinion, too uncomfortably close! Robin, the building’s manager, is wonderful as she converses with him, always seeming to cause a chuckle to rise to the surface.

A lovely ninety-six year old was talking to Dad this week about the women all buying bikinis, and she was considering going topless! Dad listened and laughed. I blushed!

Tomorrow Carol and I begin our road journey home. We will worship together with my sister, brother-in-law, and Dad, and then say our tearful goodbyes. It will be hard to release the embrace, but we have our own family…that is, two generations below us on the age pyramid…to go home and hug. Three children, two son-in-laws, and three grandchildren to be the “lean-to” for. Tomorrow I’ll sit in church with Dad, just like I did fifty-five years ago. His physical strength has waned since then, but I know that his strength of character is abundant.

In new kinds of ways he’s still my “lean-to!”

Friday Night Fire Alarm

October 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 October 26, 2015


Bernice latched on to my dad’s hand. She had forgotten her cane. A ninety-three year old can’t be expected to remember everything! She got her housecoat first, but didn’t think about her cane leaning against the wall in her kitchen. Friday night fire alarms at 9:00 were a nuisance…and, more than likely, Leo, who lived down the hallway, had set it off because he wanted some late night fried bacon.

The various elderly folk slowly wandered into the hallway amidst the very loud and obnoxious sounds of the building’s fire alarm system.

“Leo’s been frying bacon again!” bellowed Bonnie! Bonnie had responsibilities to take care of. She assumed her role as “group captain.” She had six people that she had to make sure were okay. “Okay” meant she had to check them off on her clipboard which she clutched close to her chest as she strutted into the darkness.

The senior independent living complex had been through this before. It was the second time that Leo had given into temptation for late-night bacon resulting in the fire alarm sounding. the evidence of his crime could be seen in the smoke rising from the grease in the skillet. There had also been a 4:00 A.M. fire alarm a couple of months ago because of a system malfunction, to which Leo now used the excuse, “At least I set it off at a decent time!”

Bernice clutched my dad’s hand, one unsteady person teaming up with another shuffler. She was feisty and my dad did not refuse her. He had no choice. She commandeered his hand as soon as they walked outside.

Bonnie checked people off.








“Agnes isn’t coming.”

“Why isn’t she coming? I’ve got to check her off.”

“She doesn’t want to. She’s just going to stand on her balcony.”

Bonnie tried to hide her annoyance. It was a fire alarm and Agnes, ninety-five and counting, decided she was going to pout and not follow protocol. “These people!” she muttered to herself.


Leo stood in the distance smoking a cigarette. Smoking bacon in his apartment and smoking a Winston outside.

The fire alarm kept blaring. People were getting annoyed. There was a good movie playing right then on the Hallmark Channel and they were missing it. Senior citizens only have so much patience, and then they just do what they want to.

Bernice pulled her housecoat tighten to her body while trying to get some warmth from my father. Although my mom was six months older than Dad, it’s still awkward to see your dad holding hands with a woman six years older than him.

The alarm finally shut off and Bonnie assumed group control. People had to have her permission to go back inside. She held the clipboard of power.

“All right! You can go back in now. See everybody at breakfast! Leo, no more frying bacon!”

Leo there his cigarette butt down and crushed the life out of it.

Friday night fun! Although most of the residents gave Leo “the look”, they also admitted that it was nice to have a little fire alarm excitement on a chilling evening. Bonnie was proud of the fact that she performed her duties flawlessly, and Bernice couldn’t remember the last time she had held hands with a fine looking gentleman. She gave thought to buying Leo another pound of bacon!