Without meaning to be too "woo woo" and high in the clouds, I want us to think about meaningfulness in our lives. What is meaningful, purposeful, interesting? What supports us to be focused, engaged, moving, functional and interested in the world around us? Is it leisure? That is, do we feel we are doing something meaningful when we are at leisure? Some of us might feel we are, when we pursue leisure activities that are helpful to others or produce something, like gardening, cooking, volunteering. Is it the same if it is watching a movie, clapping to music, singalongs or bingo?
The point I wish to make is how people in their later years in aged care tend to see activities. They seem to be about entertainment - having things done for people that are bright and cheerful and like we, who are working constantly and running all over the place, wish we had more time to do. But how many hours a week do we have for those pursuits? Its not every day, all day is it? What are we doing the rest of the time? Meaningful things?
People in their later years have often grown up and lived their adult lives very busily. Whilst they might not be able to do the same things they used to, or even want to, does it have meaning for them to only have activities that are about entertainment? Do they have any other meaningful thing to do in their home?
We often come from a place of love when we say to our later years parents, "I'll do that, or just sit back and relax, you've worked hard and you deserve it." That's very true, but we should be cautious about taking away all of the 'jobs' a person must do, and taking away the language of 'work' which adds a level of meaningfulness to people's lives.
If you have a loved one living in a residential facility, is their activity program encouraging meaningfulness in what they do? Are you? For example, I have done work in a facility where Jack's job was to set the tables in his 'pod'. Betty's job was to fold the tea towels for the kitchen servery. Jill, who was an ex-nurse, had the job of rolling the bandages after they were washed. She was observed, and hand washing was reminded, but she did the job very well and proudly told me how hard she worked for the organisation. In another organisation Pamela, the ex-personal assistant, changed the day on the calendar each morning. When she was unwell for a week, a couple of residents devised a roster so that the 'calendar job' was maintained. In the same facility, Bill was responsible for chook feeding.
We need to beware that, in taking away tasks that we might see as work, we could be taking away meaning. We need to be open to seeing opportunities for people in their later years, in aged care, to have meaningful contributions to their home and community.