Jane Pounds takes in a deep breath before getting ready for the day on April 16, 2011. At 81, Pounds says that by not jumping up out of bed right when she wakes up, it allows her to mentally and physically prepare for the day.
The door to Pounds’ medicine cabinet lies open as she goes through her morning routine on April 16, 2011. Though she does use a few anti-aging and wrinkle creams, Pounds says that she does not bother with trying to look younger than she is. “You do get a certain amount of respect from most people simply because you are older, and that’s nice,” adds Pounds.
Jean Hodgson stretches during a pilates class at the Meramec Bluffs gym on April 11, 2011. The facility’s trainers offer different aerobic classes to help the residents maintain flexibility and strength as their bodies age.
Jane Enchelmaier attempts a return during a water volleyball match on April 9, 2011. Many of the residents at the Lutheran Senior Services facility at Meramec Bluffs try to stay as active and healthy as they can at they age by doing different activities that the facility offers. “I think that’s very important. Otherwise you don’t have very much energy, your body doesn’t feel as good, and your body doesn’t feel as young,” says Pounds.
Jan Neubacher touches her friend Norine Lang’s hand after running into each other in the salon on April 9, 2011. The two had not seen each other for some time, and spent a few minutes catching up. “It’s still good to have friends to talk to,” says Pounds, “and friends who are in the same boat.”
Joan Moschner and Elaine McGraw share a laugh during their shuffleboard break on April 23, 2011. Resident Lucy McKay finds that having friends to laugh about life and growing old is more tolerable than being isolated where you have to face those struggles on your own.
For my first job when I turned 16, I applied to become a waitress at a retirement home right up the street from where I lived in Ballwin, Mo. It was a new facility owned by Lutheran Senior Services that catered to more able older adults, and while I had my own 3 grandparents, I didn’t quite know what to expect of this generation.
In the first week that I worked there, I met a man who whenever you ask him how he was doing, he always responded, “Well I’m almost terrific!” This of course triggered the follow-up question of how he could be fully terrific. His response was always the same- Heaven.
Not too soon after that I became familiar with another elderly gentlemen who had a similar response to the question. He would simply state, “Well, I woke up today.” Another would answer that it was a good day because he didn’t smell candles when he got out of bed, his way of joking about a funeral.
After a few weeks of working there, I slowly began to see a trend and, being only 16, I had to wonder, is death the only thing that you have to look forward to as you age?
“You just can’t imagine that one of things we truly laugh about is aging and death,” says 83-year-old Lucy McKay, a resident at the LSS Meramec Bluffs facility. “I don’t think any of us are afraid of death. We kid a lot about it, and I think that’s why we are more relaxed with the situation, because we know any day it could be anyone of us.”
And though they may not be afraid of death, many of the residents at Meramec Bluffs are by no means counting down until the end. On the contrary, they are finding ways to keep themselves feeling younger and more active without regards to their age.
“I don’t think we should look at age,” continues McKay, who believes that age is an important factor when you are younger, as you have events and stages in your life to look forward to. Once you’ve passed those milestones, McKay finds that age doesn’t affect your life as much. In fact, she believes that there are many misconceptions based on the assumption that just because someone may be a certain age, it makes them old.
“Age doesn’t count so much anymore because it is your physical well-being,” she says. “Based on your health, you can be old at 65 if you’re not feeling well and if your health is poor. And you can be vital at 80-85 if you’re feeling well and if you (have) physical well-belling.”
In her eighties, McKay is finding plenty of ways to maintain her physical well-being through different activities, including water aerobics and playing volleyball, as are many of the residents at the facility.
Jane Pounds, 81, found that once she turned 80 her body was beginning to tire more easily than it had before, but she didn’t let stop her from doing what she enjoys. Still an active member in two choirs, Pounds continues to bowl, and organizes and partakes in activities at the facility.
“And I think that’s the key to it, too, is to just keep doing what you like to do,” says Pounds. “Don’t think that because you’re a certain age you can’t do it anymore.”
McKay couldn’t agree more. An avid walking, McKay believes that just getting out and walking a bit, or any physical activity that you still love, are the answers to aging.
Though both women find physical activity to be a large factor in keeping their bodies feeling younger, they are not too concerned with doing the same with their physical appearance.
“At the grocery store, sometimes someone will say ‘can I help you,’ and I think, ‘oh my gosh, I must look awfully old if they’re offering to help me like that,’ and I don’t realize that,” laughs Pounds.
But she doesn’t let it bother her. Instead, she embraces her older age, as does McKay. When McKay was working with people younger than herself, she died her hair as a way to blend in with them. When she moved into the facility and was surrounded by her peers, however, she decided to let her hair go gray and take advantage of it.
“You do get a certain amount of respect from most people simply because you are older, and that’s nice,” adds Pounds.
There are other aspects, however, besides physical activity, which McKay and Pounds find to help their aging process, and one of the most important aspects is their relationships with others.
Pounds, who will be celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary this December with her husband, Wayne, feels that having love in her life is a large factor to her well-being, and that aging has only strengthened it.
“We keep that going, and it’s not hard. You have more time to relax with each other for one thing, and more opportunities, it seems to me, to express how you feel to the other person,” she says.
For those older adults who have lost their loved ones, however, companionship comes from their friendships with those around them. After McKay retired, she began working again part-time just to give her something to do and because she couldn’t stand not working. When she lost her husband some time after that, however, she tried to stay in her home and continue on with her daily life, only to find it to be rather depressing.
“To grow old alone in your home, that’s no way to live,” she explains.
Then after a few years, McKay realized that she needed to be around more people and get the socialization that she was missing. After moving into Meramec Bluffs nearly three years ago, she found it to be uplifting to be able to talk with those around her that understood the things that she was going through.
“I think it makes life a lot more tolerable than being isolated where all you do is think about things,” she says.
And while these women find that there are ways in which they can feel younger and overcome the struggles that growing older creates, they’ve embraced their age and their situations. They’ve also realized that, though there may be certain limitations, aging has not changed who they are.
“The concept that getting old diminishes one’s activities, along with their emotions, is a misconception. Yes, your activities are diminishes because of course your ligaments and muscles and bones stiffen up and they aren’t as flexible as when you’re younger, and that’s why you don’t run or try to jump over things,” explains McKay. “You slow down because the body tells you or makes you slow down. But inside your emotions don’t change. We still have those feelings; we bleed the same as younger people.”
Pounds agrees that, though she feels her age on occasion, she finds that aging has not affected the person who she was when she was younger.
“In my mind I don’t feel my age at all. I don’t really feel a whole lot different. Mentally I tell myself you’re older, but as you’re thinking about things, your innermost thoughts still seem a lot the same,” says Pounds. “They don’t seem to change. Your basic self doesn’t change, you still feel like yourself, no matter what your age is.”
Yet while these women, and many of the residents at Meramec Bluffs, keep their bodies as active and healthy as possible, they feel that aging has its benefits as well. In fact, McKay believes that there is no use in attempting to stay young forever.
“Youth is so idolized in our country, but if you stop and think about it, you’re not going to stop it. In fact, you’d like to grow old; it’s better than not growing old. So you might as well go along with it,” she says. “It can be a beautiful process.”
When I found out a few weeks ago that May was “Senior Citizens Month,” I was so happy that by the time the whole project came together it would be very timely. Although we had talked about in class attempting to change my focus on “golden girls” halfway through, with it being Easter weekend and other events going on at the Bluffs, I just didn’t get enough material to focus on that, and when I redid the interview to talk about it, many of the women didn’t have much to say. Therefore, I went back to my original idea, but instead of just showing the active lives of the elderly, and from the interviews I had done that kind of guided me, I chose to focus on how the elderly struggle and embrace aging, and in what ways the assumptions of the elderly are incorrect.
Overall, I am pretty happy with the way that it turned out, although I feel like I could have used another month to take my general focus and branch it off to find a great story inside of it. This was my first attempt at doing an essay, and in all honesty I am not really a huge fan of them. It is much more difficult to organize an essay than a story, and it is very hard to get the pictures to play off each other. When I finally laid out my pictures, I had two things in mind as a way for them to play off each other. The first was that I wanted it to capture the three main points I talked about in the article: physical activity, physical appearance and the need for relationships. With this, each set of pictures sort of works together. The second part was that I wanted it to flow almost as if it was a daily progression, starting with waking up in the morning with stiff joints and alone, and ending with being around others and being happy. Otherwise, I know that there is not much that is holding the pictures together either style-wise or with the people in them. I also know that they may not be my best work, as many of them are from about the same distance, but I did vary my lenses quite often and worked from different angles. Out of the almost 900 images, however, the pictures I needed to show just didn’t show this.
Of the three audio interviews that I took, I decided to only use one for the final cut piece. Having only one person talking seemed like the best way to make sure it was concise and fluid. I know that the piece is rather long for just an audio piece, but I found it to be an alternative way to understand the entire piece without having to read the article. I did work to cut it down as much as I could, and I had others listen to it, but because of the way Mrs. McKay answered the questions, if I had left it around 2-3 minutes, it would have been three of her answers. Overall, however, I think the audio quality in this project was much better than my last project, as well are the answers that I got in the interview. Also, I didn’t want this to be a real multimedia project because I know I wouldn’t have the images to fill in the time, and otherwise the pictures would have been onscreen for almost 40 seconds. I also thought about doing the interviews with video, but all the cameras were checked out, so I had to rely on just an audio recorder.
While I’m pretty proud of the work I did, I think I am most proud of my work on the article. It took me several days to get it right since I hadn’t written an article in over four months, but it was so easy to work with the quotes that I had from the interviews. While it is rather long, I feel like it is still fluid as well, and that it covers all the most important aspects of what I originally wanted to show about the elderly community. Also, even though you can’t hear their voices, I think the way in which the women spoke and how they answered the questions really offers insight into the kind of people they are and gives them character. One thing I chose not to do with the article was do a layout because I have no idea how to do one or feel comfortable enough with InDesign to try it. I know we did that exercise at the beginning of the semester, but quite obviously from the layout I created I have no idea where to even start to put one together, and I didn’t want a poor design to take away from the article.
Overall, I feel like I tried my hardest to get this project to come together, and although it could be better, I am happy with what I’ve done and won’t feel ashamed to show the residents the final product.