I snapped this picture while I was out visiting senior communities yesterday. They were the cutest couple walking hand in hand past me in the lobby, their faces lit up by their smiles. They were both dressed up for lunch. He had on a bow tie and she had nice make up and a twinkle in her eye like one you’d see on a giddy high school girl. They were heading to the dining room and while they were seated, I caught a glimpse of their ringer fingers. No rings on this couple. For sure they were giving off the boyfriend/girlfriend new relationship vibe.
Last month, I saw the first client we ever moved, a single woman, enjoying breakfast with her boyfriend. (I confirmed this by re-introducing myself and getting the scoop from the clients I was dining with.)
I can say in all sincerity, I would not be in the senior move business if I didn't believe there was so much value in senior community living way beyond what money can buy. If I had to take bets, I would wager these two couples would never have connected if they remained in their respective homes with part-time caregivers coming in to visit while filling their days in front of the television.
As a hopeful romantic, it gave me great pleasure to see love could put a twinkle in your eyes any age.
When making the decision about senior living and whether it’s the right decision, of course you’ll consider the usual factors like the cost of living, more nutritious food, less uncertainty with unforeseen home expenses, another set of eyes protecting you from elder fraud. You also need to account for intangibles like holding hands and falling in love.
I got a call Thursday from Wes Lavender, Executive Director at Atria La Jolla* that one of my favorite clients passed away. By all accounts of what our society might consider what would be necessary for a happy life, Marianne Maynard would not have qualified.
She died alone in her apartment. There were no family pictures in her home as she’d never married and had no children. But working with her through her move, she became a favorite of our team. Her positive attitude was infectious and her warmth and wisdom drew you in.
As senior move managers, we are privileged to be part of people’s deliberations as they go through a lifetime of belongings representing their lives. Whether it is a treasured collection, souvenirs from trips or family heirlooms or old photographs, going through a lifetime of belongings with someone offers so many opportunities to learn all about someone and soak in the wisdom that comes with the experience of living a long life. Some clients are not attached and move through decisions easily recognizing it’s only stuff. Others agonize and waiver. Some are moving into the next phase at peace while others are conflicted. Some people have children who want nothing to do with them while others, like Marianne, have special nieces and friends who become family because being around them just feels good. How lucky to work with seniors and benefit from someone else’s 20/20 hindsight.
I asked Marianne why she never married. This isn’t a question I would normally feel comfortable asking but Marianne was content with her life and it was clear she would have had plenty of opportunity. She told me she didn't feel she would be able to accomplish what she was here to do if she had diverted her time with marriage and family.
Marianne was the first woman to earn a phD from her college, she was a published author of more than 50 books, a professor and a speaker.
One Sunday, I attended Eckenkar, Marianne’s place of worship with her. We discussed spirituality and souls on more than one occasion. Like me, she believed we live multiple lives and our souls grow by our attendance at “Earth School”.
Living multiple lives in a range of bodies (as a man, woman, many cultures, classes and religions) allows us to have a full human experience.
Having studied gerontology as a younger woman, I asked if her experience of aging was what she’d expected. She told me aging was harder than she anticipated and it was frustrating to not feel good in her body. All the while, she kept a smile on her face.
Marianne lived very simply with older, dated furniture.
It was not stuff or grandchildren that made Marianne happy. It was her warmth, positive energy connection to others and her fulfillment of purpose that drew people to her. I believe when we pass we have the opportunity to reflect on our life and figure out where we got it right and where we could have done better. I also believe “heaven and hell” is learning what others thought of us. Marianne, I hope you’re smiling right now.
*We have moved several residents into Atria La Jolla and when we check in, everyone is extremely happy with the decision to move there. I have been personally impressed with Wes and his involvement with the residents and our staff. I have heard from clients he's even been the one to drive a resident to the hospital.
Dr. Marianne Maynard has contributed more than fifty publications in professional journals. Now retired, she spends her time writing and presenting seminars on aging, wellness, and spirituality. She holds a bachelor of arts and master of education degree in art education as well as a PhD in behavioral disabilities, counseling psychology, and gerontology. She has served as a professor at several major universities. Her career path included many years in teaching as well as working as a mental health/staff development consultant and occupational therapist. Now living in San Diego, California, Dr. Maynard remains active in pursuing her interests in writing and conducting seminars on aging well, self-empowerment, and spirituality.
A description of one of her many books: "Our life on earth is a short, grand adventure with many challenges and lessons for personal and spiritual growth. With knowledge and intuitive insight, we can have a rewarding, harmonious journey.However, it takes a clear understanding of your ideal, focus intent, and thought to manifest your goals and dreams. The “how to do this” is spelled out in simple, concise steps that enables you to live your ideal and express your magnificence."
Jami Shapiro is President of Silver Linings Transitions. As a cancer survivor, she embraces aging and the challenges it presents.