Updated: Oct 23
Let me share a story with you. Yesterday, my elderly neighbors were locked out of their house on one of the coldest days of the week. That day, I went to pick up my daughter from school and noticed my neighbor's husband sitting alone on the steps. I greeted him and went on my way. Later, when my daughter and I returned, he was still sitting there, which was unusual because he was always with his wife. I felt concerned and asked him if everything was alright. Before he could reply, he broke down in tears. I approached him and asked where his wife was. He said she was in the car, but I knew that wasn't true because her car was parked with no sign of her. My neighbor was shivering from the cold and told me he didn't have the keys to their house. I offered to help him and told him to start walking to my house to warm up.
I found myself in a situation where I was trying to help an elderly man get up from the steps. I was unsure if I was doing the right thing by moving him, but I couldn't just leave him there. As I struggled to lift him, I couldn't help but think that this felt like a scene from the Twilight Zone. After a few minutes, I finally managed to get him up the steps, but his wife was still missing. I asked him if he knew her phone number, and thankfully he did. I called her and introduced myself as their neighbor, and she explained that she had gone for a walk because she was cold from sitting on the steps. She was also looking for someone small enough to fit through their window so they could get back into their house. I told her that her husband was with me and that she could walk back to their house.
As she was walking towards her house I was at my door waving her over because she didn't know which neighbor was talking to her on the phone.
As soon as she got inside she started fussing with her husband about everything elderly people could fuss about. By this time the heat was coming up on full blast and he was noticeably relieved that his wife was near him again. I was starting to relax because he could relax. I told them they could stay and get warm while we figured out how to get them back into their place.
After some calls, she finally got the landlord. He told her he would be over in a few hours.
They stayed until almost 6 o'clock, and mind you it was 2:30 when this sequence of events began.
Y'all, the husband is 81 years old and the wife is 84 years old. Despite their limited range of motion due to arthritis and respiratory issues, the wife still drives her husband to his appointments and takes care of him the best way she can. It's admirable that they could lean on each other for this long.
I will admit, I was a little concerned about their condition and level of care, but was also amazed at their commitment to each other. However, the situation raised an important question: what would they have done if I hadn't intervened? The wife explained that her car and house keys were in her jacket pocket, but she didn't realize she didn't have her house keys until they got back from the appointment. They don't have family or friends nearby and can't get assistance through the government for an aide for both of them. This highlights the need to rebuild a real community where elders don't have to live alone or barely get by.
What's even worse is despite being neighbors for at least a year, I just learned their names. This experience is what I've been saying about us coming together as a community to help others in need.
Well, on a positive note, here are 6 life lessons we can learn from elderly people... from this very scenario.
When it is appropriate to ask for and accept help.
Resilience is tested at any age.
Mental faculties do not diminish when using them.
Community support is valuable.
Always have a backup plan.
Choose your life partner well.