My real job that supports my family is working with senior citizens to rehabilitate them after illness or injury. You could say that I’m a therapy shill because I do work in the rehabilitation industry. I’ve worked with seniors and adults with disabilities for the last 20 years already as a care companion, activity assistant and director, and as a learning coordinator at an assisted living. I really love my work and seeing people get better and return to their prior level of function. The best thing about living in a modest size community is that I get to see my patients thriving after they recover.
In my training as an occupational therapist, we are taught to look at the occupations, or the everyday activities, that we do in our daily lives. From the simple act of getting dressed to preparing a meal, these activities are essential to our lives. Once our basic activities of daily living are fulfilled, we are able to pursue other things like leisure activities that help bring meaning into our lives. A balance of these activities help put our lives in a state of flow, where we are functioning well.
In this day and age, people long for a sense of belonging and want to do something meaningful. As many people are living much longer, more people are facing age related declines where they will eventually need basic self care help. It’s a fact of life when people start aging well into their 90’s. Having such a high cost of living in Hawaii has made it hard for families to care for their elders at home and many need long term care.
Many of the folks I know are still sharp in their minds but can’t walk too well. They long to talk to others and love kindling friendships with others. Many people forget that just because someone is in a wheelchair, it doesn’t change their desires as humans. They still want to be engaged and fulfilled as an individual. In a care facility, their basic care needs are all met. After it’s done, there is activities that they can participate in, which many enjoy.
One of my residents had stopped me and told me that she wanted to do something to help out. Being retired for nearly 30 years means lots of time for volunteering. No matter what age they are, the desire to help others is still motivating. I pondered it for sometime to think about what could be done.
It struck me a few months ago of a perfect “job” that would fit the bill. Everyday, the Pohai Nani Care Center gets lots of newspapers. When you’re 90, you have no desire to use an iPad to read it. They want the real paper. At the end of the day, the papers are recycled. That’s the end of the paper.
Seeing the piles of paper made me think that unfolding the paper out and rolling it up would be a great job for many of the residents. They would be recycling these papers to be used to help us pack our papayas into the cases. We had just recently lost my brother’s partner’s father who faithfully used to roll out papers for us for years and had to add that task to the list. I spoke to the activity director, a long time friend, and a meaningful activity was born.
At first we started with 2 residents helping with the paper recycling project a month ago. As they were proudly talking about how they were helping our farm, other residents became more interested in it. It is a big social event now for our residents to do this. There is now about 5 regular residents who get together to do this several times a week.
As I think about this, it’s really an example of community. A farm relies on the community that supports it. The farmer works hard to produce a product that is useful for people. My dad and brother are busy producing papayas for the people here in Hawaii. Not all people can farm and rely on those able bodied folks to feed them. Many elderly folks can’t be farming but they indeed can help the farmer in many ways. The simple act of unfolding and rolling these newspapers to help us is a humble act that our farm is grateful for. This meaningful activity has given them a huge sense of purpose and fulfills their desire to contribute to helping others. Just because their hands may be old, it doesn’t mean that it’s not useful.
So thank you to the staff and residents of Pohai Nani for supporting our farm get papayas to so many others!