As I packed up my music bag, Vivian steered her walker toward me. The determined look on her face told me she had something to say.
“We live in a beautiful place here, but it’s not home,” she told me. “When you play the piano for us, it’s home.”
I was touched, and immediately thought of the old Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, “A House Is Not a Home”:
A chair is still a chair,
Even when there’s no one sitting there.
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight,
And no one there you can kiss good-night.
Residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers are dealing with a lot of loss. Loss of independence, obviously. And often of a spouse. They’ve had to let go of many of their belongings in order to live in a smaller space. They’ve given up their cars. Someone else now decides the activities of their day, their mealtimes and menus. Physical limitations further narrow their choices.
Elderly people blessed with resilience adapt to their new circumstances and continue to find ways to be happy. Others do not.
When I play songs from the 1930s and ’40s for my older listeners, I’m doing more than entertaining. I’m showing them that I appreciate the times they lived through, that I respect and value the contributions of their generation. I’m saying, You have not been forgotten.
The people I meet in senior facilities have little interest in material things. Instead, they want a sense of home—a place where they feel safe, loved, and cared for; where they’re listened to; where there are interesting and worthwhile things to do, see, and hear. And they want some control over their lives, even if it’s only to request that I play a particular song.
I’m glad I can make their house feel just a little more like home.
Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.