A few weeks ago, I came home from performing at a retirement home for the elderly. We played music for the senior citizens to them to enjoy and be entertained. As I was driving to the home, I wasn’t expecting for the simple performance to be one of the best experiences of my life.
The interior of the home was quaint and cozy, with high hung chandeliers and a generous amount of windows, filling every room with rich natural light. My group and I started rearranging chairs for the audience, setting up our stands, and warming up our instruments. After about fifteen minutes, most of our performers had already arrived and the audience started filing in and taking seats.
When everyone settled down, our organization president and introduced us to the audience. As he spoke, I looked around and observed the individuals I would be performing for. The crowd was mostly composed of females, there was one woman sitting on the side that was hard of hearing, there were a few individuals sitting in wheelchairs, and there was one sweet old couple sitting in the front holding hands.
And finally it was time to perform. My small trio was first to play. It was nothing too hard, a simple and pretty song that was quickly over. The next set of performers, a duet between a singer and pianist, took the floor and proceeded playing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley. I leaned back in my chair and braced myself to listen to one of my favorite love songs. Once the smooth, rich singing started, I was pleasantly surprised to hear low, gruff voices from the audience join in on the lyrics. I glanced over at the audience and my heart absolutely melted when I saw that the old man, hand still clasped to his partner’s, was singing along. I admit that I teared up at the sight, and then started lightly singing along to the song as well. It was quite emotional, seeing an old couple (who I presume were married), still together, still in love, and truly living up to the vows: “Til death do us part.”
As the performances continued and I observed the audience, I couldn’t help but wonder how often their families visited, if they were happy, or bitter, or sad in their last years or simply bored. Some were in wheelchairs, some had hard hearing, which made me think of the elderly in my own personal life and their futures, and made me so grateful for my own youthfulness and healthy body. It honestly thrilled me when one of the old ladies called us performers “youngsters.”
I’ll admit that the idea of retirement homes has always somewhat scared me. I know and heard of old people who refuse to be put into a home. Family unwilling to take care of them or that they don’t want to give up their individuality and freedom. I can’t help but wonder if this will be my future. Will I have my own home or live with someone else? Would I be willing to check into a retirement home if need be? Will I find someone to grow old with like that sweet old couple I saw? Will I be happy, sad, bitter, bored, or regretful in my old days? Will I even be able to walk, hear, or see? At my friend’s business, there are a lot of old senior citizen customers. And every once in a while, I hear that one of them has died. I wonder how is it like to grow old, and have all your friends die? Friends you made in high school or friends in the retirement home?
Despite all my morbidity and gloominess wondering about my future, these people made my heart swell. Made me smile, laugh, and tear up. I had such respect for them.
The smooth faces of our youthful performers are like the blank pages of an unwritten book. The creases in the faces of those who had lived over seven decades are the lines that fill up pages and they tell a wonderful story. It tells of love, loss, pain, and joy. Many of those in the audience looked very content and fulfilled. Imagine the wisdom they have to share! Aging is not only inevitable, but a privilege.