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All too many times overwhelmed caregivers are physically and emotionally depleted and need to take time to rest and care for themselves. Believing in a holistic approach to caregiver stress and a strong commitment to helping our members find the right solutions, we created this blog to help you connect with others who, like you, may be facing the same eldercare issues and challenges. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and submit articles. Please forward the blog link to your family and friends. They'll be glad you did.

Warm regards,

Patricia Grace
founder & CEO
Aging with Grace

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Lifetime of Perfectly Good Red Rubber Bands

By Rita Files

Early on in my career, I worked with a client, Mrs. Jones, who was responsible for teaching me a very valuable lesson when working with the senior population. This single experience gave me a clear understanding of the importance of helping older clients with not only the physical aspects of a later-life move, but also the psychological preparation for this transition, and what makes the downsizing process the hardest part of any move.

Mrs. Jones was quite feisty and a true believer of the school of “waste not, want not.” In addition to several mayonnaise jars full of buttons and every size screw known to man, she had a kitchen drawer full of at least 72,000 red rubber bands. It was an amazing amount of rubber bands in general, but that they were specifically red was astounding.

Since Mrs. Jones was moving to a senior living community, I assumed that she could not possibly be intending to take these with her and that they would go the way of the buttons and screws she had decided not to take. WRONG! “Of course I am taking them,” she said. “They are perfectly good, and I might need them someday.” Although she could not recall the last time she used one, she took comfort in knowing they were there should the need arise.

Considering the kitchen in her new apartment had only three drawers, and we needed every inch of space, this was not something we could even consider bringing. I knew talking Mrs. Jones out of her red rubber band collection was going to be a bit of a challenge. After some thought as to what approach to use, I proceeded to ask her, out of curiosity, where they all had come from. Most, she said, had come from bunches of vegetables, such as broccoli and celery, that she had purchased at the grocery store over the past 50 or 60 years.

This set her off down memory lane, telling me about all the different holiday dinners and events she had prepared for over the years, the traditions she meticulously upheld year after year for her children and then grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The memories came flooding back to her as she fingered the rubber bands with a twinkle in her eyes. As she spoke, I realized that they were not just rubber bands, but a link to some of the most memorable and happy events of the past 50 years.

When she finally took her eyes off the mountain of red rubber bands, she turned to me with a smile and announced, “I don’t suppose I will ever use all those rubber bands. Perhaps I will just take a handful in case I need them, and donate the rest.” I returned an enlightened smile and said, “Great idea! I will get a plastic container to put them in, so you can store them in the kitchen drawer in your new apartment.”

Many older adults making a transition have not moved in 30, 40, or 50 years and need to downsize considerably. From this brief encounter, I learned firsthand the importance of giving the older person the opportunity to “let go” of their belongings. Often this process includes sharing memories, especially if it is the house where they raised their family and spent a major part of their life. I learned that closure and saying good-bye to the home the senior is leaving is the key to a successful later-life move. Proper preparation, along with allowing enough time to get through the experience by sharing memories, can help immensely with this transition.

1 comment:

  1. If significant downsizing or "letting go" is simply not and option for an older adult, there are many options now for larger retirement and senior living communities. Many Florida senior living communities offer spacious villas and apartments that allow older adults to bring more of their memories with them when they move.


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