Tomorrow I’m going into a nursing home to meet George. He is 50 and, apparently, relatively healthy. That had me wondering for the past month, ever since the visit was arranged: how do you end up in a nursing home at 50? What turn do you take in life to arrive there?
Another question on my mind is, what will the whole experience be like? I’m starting in a Red Cross volunteering program, where you visit an elderly person once a week and keep them company. The catch is, I don’t know any old people closely, and never did. Some of you stayed at grandma’s over the summer or have aging parents, but I don’t. Everything about old age is unfamiliar to me. The medicine smell, the drooping skin way too big for the body, the slurred speech, all that puts me on guard and makes vaguely uncomfortable.
Yes, I realize a lot of the residents are very nice people. I know they deserve to be treated as humans, not as space aliens all covered in slime. But my instincts also tell me to keep distance and now I feel like a spy infiltrating enemy fortress.
Nursing home may seem like a strange place to volunteer, given what I said above, but that also makes it interesting. I have a chance to learn something new, to find new experiences and perhaps even have a good time. Despite all the issues, I do plan to give it a good effort and have a good time. Besides, we are all getting there someday, might as well get used to it now.
And so, my journey in time begins. The destination: 50 years into the future!
“Red Cross volunteers provide companionship to socially isolated residents living in aged care facilities across Australia on a one to one basis.” About the Community Visitors Scheme.