A couple weeks ago, we were assigned to write a mini reflection on where we see ourselves at age 80. I thought it was a difficult assignment since it was hard for me to fast forward my life 10 years from now, not to mention 60 years. Where would I be living? Would I be living with my children and grandchildren? Would I be living alone or with a spouse? Prior to this task, it never occurred to me to think what my life would be like and really made me question my lifestyle choices: how my current diet, social connections, as well as physical exercise will have great impacts on my future mental and physical health.
Last week, our class made a trip to the St. Paul's Program of All-Inclusive Care (PACE) sites to interact with some of the elderly folks in the facilities. I was initially very nervous because I didn't know what was appropriate to ask the elders. I didn't want to bring up questions that could be too personal. At the first site, I met Eugene who had Parkinson's. He has no family members in California, was never married and had no kids. He was originally from South Dakota and moved to Monterey, California at age 9 when his stepfather's navy unit moved there. Also, he was the same age as his uncle (commonly called his brother) and felt depressed when they had to be separated as Eugene moved to California. To follow up with his story, I asked whether he still kept in contact with his uncle and immediately a tear dripped onto his cheek. Eugene kept reassuring me that he wasn't tearing up when I apologized for asking. I knew I had accidentally stepped into his personal bubble and made sure that I wouldn't make the same mistake by asking him general questions like his interests/hobbies. What was shocking to me was when he repeatedly said, "I'm the dullest person in the room" and "I can't think of any memorable experiences". Our conversation was cut short when one of the nurses pulled him away for his weekly physical therapy and speech therapy sessions. Although our talk was short, it was definitely a memorable one because the common American ideology of individualism was prominent (as described in Eugene's life) and made me realize the importance of familial and social connections and what I would like to have in my life when I get old.