2016 01-SEP 003I looked around the thinly peopled room. It was deadly silent. Most had their heads lowered, dozing. I’d been asked to speak to the residents of a local Aged Care Facility re the benefits of exercise and Weight Resistant Training (WRT) in particular. Those present seemed to be 80+. Suddenly I heard to the side of me, “I need to go to the toilet. I won’t be long. I don’t want to miss the talk.” The voice belonged to a comparatively energetic male who stood up and made his way to the toilet with as much haste as he could muster. When he returned he told me that he was from the Sutherland Shire in Sydney, an area in which I lived for 15 years and so we chatted away sharing our knowledge of the area. I noticed that he was hugging two, bedraggled, but obviously well-loved soft toys close to his body, one on either side. “These are all I’ve got left of my parents,” he said, clutching the bedraggled pair closer to him as if they were his most precious possessions.
“Are there any more residents to come?” I asked a young, female aged care worker standing nearby, hoping there’d be some younger residents coming. “Oh yes,” she said, “someone has gone to get them.” Eventually a procession of walking frames appeared, moving ever so slowly. As the last of the entourage were entering the room, one of the walking frame entourage, an elderly female resident, broke out in song. “What a beautiful voice,” I said. “Sorry,” she said. “Not at all,” I replied, “your voice is beautiful.” She beamed and stopped singing, and sat down
The room now ready and comfortably peopled, it was time to begin. ‘This is going to be difficult,’ I thought.
However, it wasn’t difficult and the beauty of what followed I’m finding almost impossible to capture in words. We began talking about the world that was. The world these older people knew; the world where the shops closed at 12 noon on Saturdays and didn’t open again until Monday 9am. The world before McDonalds and televisions and epidurals and motor mowers to name a few. We also talked about the dating mores of yester-year and life as it was. Their eyes became energised and alive. We then talked about the value of our experiences and how future generations might want to know about the life we lived, as I wanted to know about my great-grandmother who I never met, but to whom feel ever so close. We talked about Ancestry.com and the TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” and how people wanted to know about their ancestors. We talked about looking up and making contact with people from the past. Interspersed among all this was the theme of needing the energy and strength to pursue these things through gentle WRT and walking.
At the end of the session a distinguished gentleman at the back of the room told me of a girlfriend he had when he lived in the United Kingdom, “We used to ride our bicycles 20 miles to a big city and 20 miles back,” he said with wistful affection. “Why don’t you try and contact her now?” I said. “But she’d be old now,” he replied. I thought it best to remain silent, while thinking, ‘Oh yes? And you?’
As the walking frame entourage stood up to go the lady with the beautiful voice began to sing, “Such a, beautiful voice,” I said
She beamed. “I’m Italian,” she said with pride. “How lovely,” I said. I had an Italian boyfriend once and I still think of him sometimes. His name was Pasquale but race and religion kept us apart. She smiled tenderly and knowingly and I felt she understood what I meant and how things were years ago. As the group left the room with smiles and handshakes and requests for me return, I felt spiritually uplifted. As for the gentleman with the two well-loved soft toys, who didn’t want to miss anything, he fell asleep early in the process and missed the whole thing!