The simple things…

Great-grandma's 100th birthday

I’ve been volunteering at a local senior’s residence for about a year now. I realized I had a soft spot for the elderly when I moved to Montreal in ’98 and started visiting my great-grandmother, who had been in a home since her late 80s (she lived to be 102!) She only spoke Hungarian, but I loved sitting next to her, smiling at one another, giving each other kisses on the cheek- it was the simple things that bonded us. Sometimes when I arrived, she’d nod as if she were acknowledging “Oh, good, it’s you,” although I don’t think she knew we were related. I was just a visitor who was cheery and made her smile. I saw her maybe an hour or two a week. And one night, when I decided to pop by after work, she actually passed away in front of me, just like that… the timing was uncanny. I think she waited for me. It was the one thing I had always worried about- I thought that if someone lived to be 102, they shouldn’t die alone. And as strange as it sounds, I’m so glad I was there.

Today, at the residence where I volunteer, I have a soft spot for Vincent, an 80-something war vet who’s son comes in every day to shave his father’s face. There’s Edie and Gord, who have been married 68 years and hadn’t spent a day apart until recently, when his wife was moved to another home that offered better physio therapy- they talk on the phone every day. And there’s Mrs. Tate, who loves dressing up for the men “just in case,” and Molly who calls me “dahling,” and Mr. Fairweather who told me today “you gotta keep movin’ so ‘it’ doesn’t catch you” (‘it’ as in death).

Everyone loves kids- kids are never alone and always have a companion, and if kids are in trouble or are hurt, everyone puts effort into helping them. When I visit the residents at my home, there are so many of them who are lonely… they fade away quicker because of the lack of interaction. And just because they have memory loss, or get confused, they still have so much love and happiness and wisdom to share. Babies don’t comprehend words and commands for months and months, yet would we just leave them in a corner until they could? No- we nurture and encourage them. Why are the elderly any different?

We quit smoking and exercise and eat healthy so we can live longer, right? But what’s the point of living longer if we just end up holed up in a room mindlessly staring out a window?

It sounds a tad “kumbaya,” but if you’re able to give up just one afternoon a month to do some friendly visiting at an old folk’s home, I promise you’ll leave there feeling inspired. Because, although the stack of bills or the spat with your spouse was on your mind when you got there, after spending a few hours with these warm, wonderful people, you’ll leave with a renewed sense of what’s really important in life… holding someone’s hand, sharing a laugh- it’s the simple things that count.



  1. Karen K. Said:

    Hi Jenn! Like your blog!!!

  2. shawn Said:

    you got a heart of gold, Jenn

  3. marlene eisner Said:

    you can’t imagine what a gift you are to those seniors.

  4. thanks everyone… its so nice you’re reading it… and i hope this blog didn’t come across like i’m tooting my own horn! 🙂

  5. Kim B. Said:

    Such a nice post, Jenn. You actually brought tears to my eyes. When my grandpa was in a nursing home, it got harder and harder to see him whithering away… I regret not visiting him more, all the time. Thank you for giving the folks at your home something to look forward to. I always smile when I hear about your bubbies 🙂

  6. Aww thanks Kim… it means a lot you took the time to read it. It’s hard to see someone wither away… I only knew my great-grandmother once she was sorta “gone,” and I’m not related to the bubbies now so I think it helps me stay somewhat detached (to a point!)- I don’t know how I’d handle it if someone I knew when they were well, like a parent, faded like that. I’d hope I could keep a positive attitude like I do now…
    Again thanks for reading! 🙂 xxoo

  7. marilyn Said:

    Jenn you are an inspiration ….

  8. Thanks Marilyn… but really, its those wonderful people who are truly inspiring!

  9. Maggie Said:

    Great blog my dear Jenn! xoxo

  10. Thankeeeee!! xxoo

  11. Mary Teems Said:

    WOW LOVED IT!!! You actually made me sit here and think about a few things. Great blog Jenn but more importantly what an awsome thing you are doing giving of yourself so freely and learning from these folks.
    I am proud to say I knew you when, haha.
    love you kiddo!!

  12. Thanks a lot Mary- means so much that you took the time to write and that something I WRITE would make someone stop and think… so flattering. Love you too!

  13. Carmen Said:

    Your blog is gentle, kind and inspiring. I did the same with my Mom and it was very difficult as we were related. She did pass away with me holding her had actually and I don’t regret any of it. You go on being the sweet, inspiring girl that you are 🙂

  14. You’re so sweet Carm… thanks. I just don’t understand how some people check their parents/grandparents/siblings into a facility and then just disappear. I think they believe that when someone loses their memories, they’re “gone,” but when you discover how to interact and socialize with them in a new way, it can be very fulfilling for both people involved…

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read this… means a lot. 🙂 xxoo

  15. Wendi Gareau Said:

    Hi Jenn,

    I loved your blog. It is hard to write this note as my eyes are filling up with tears. You are an incredible writer, and person!!

  16. Thanks Wendi… and this was not meant to make people cry!! 🙂 xxoo

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