A nice June day can steal my audience. Senior facility residents are eager to soak up the sun in their courtyard, or people-watch from wicker rocking chairs on the front porch. They prefer strolling through the garden, or swaying on a bench swing. When a warm Michigan day rolls around, they don’t want to linger indoors by the piano. I don’t blame them. Plenty of time for that in the winter.
I wish I could play by an open window so they’d hear me outside. But like most buildings these days, senior facilities are “climate-controlled.” Shorthand for “we’re sealed in.” Few windows open.
Designers recognize the importance of connecting elderly residents to the natural world, and try to bring the outdoors in. Upscale senior communities have big goldfish pools lined with aquatic plants. Aviaries are common. One place I visit regularly has a resident parrot that whistles at every woman who passes. (He might whistle at the men too, I haven’t noticed.) But nothing beats the real outdoors.
From my experiences as a volunteer pianist, I’ve learned that time is fleeting. The more I’m with elderly people, as I face “late middle age” myself, the more compelled I feel to drop everything on a sunny Michigan June day and get outside—read on my front porch with a glass of wine at hand, take a long walk, or simply breathe in the fresh, scented air. At this point in my life, I have the freedom to do those things often, provided the weather cooperates. Who knows when that freedom might end? I’m heading outside right now. Just because I still can.
Copyright © 2015 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.