As a (relatively) new parent, I’m developing a new appreciation for the phrase “grow out of it”. During the infamous fourth trimester, you pray for time to fly by faster and difficult phases to quickly pass. Sleepless nights, for example, are brutal, though the days are just as long. I remember simultaneously counting down until bedtime while also dreading nightfall, when I knew we’d get no rest. “He’ll grow out of it”, I heard. “He’ll be able to distinguish day from night, and he’ll learn to self soothe.” I’d imagine that as baby Leo grows, we’ll experience an infinite amount of these situations, holding onto hope that with time they’ll diminish. But what if they don’t?
Working in senior living, I’ve honestly been surprised to learn of how much we don’t grow out of. It’s kind of taboo to talk about, since we’d never want to infantilize our residents or compromise their dignity. Let me be clear: I’m not pointing out my observations with malintent, but rather with surprise and even a bit of relief. As a kid, it seems we feel like adults and elders have it all together – that they’ve outgrown it all. In a sense, it’s comforting to know they haven’t, and that no matter how old we get, we’re still so young at heart. Below are some favorite (and most prevalent) examples of things we most certainly do not grow out of:
- Gossiping: I’ll never forget reading the 2015 New York Times article entitled Mean Girls in the Retirement Home. It was published super early in my career and I thought, “This can’t be accurate.” Turns out, it totally is. In a way, gossip seems even more prevalent in senior living than it did in high school, and my theory is that it’s because it’s less secretive: my loves are hard of hearing and though they think they’re whispering, they’re usually not.
- Bickering with Roommates: It’s not easy living with someone at any age, whether they be a spouse, partner, family member, or nonrelated roomie. I would’ve imagined that with age comes more effective communication and, in turn, more mature, successful relationships and living arrangements. Not the case. I once had to draw up a contract for two roommates to sign and agree to (with witnesses!). Some terms included one nonna not using the other’s tissues, each agreeing to never leave the bathroom without TP, and both pitching in to help empty the trash. Neither were open to moving to a different apartment, yet they couldn’t stand one another. Official agreement can be found below. Spoiler alert: they parted ways.
- Competing: In this case, I’m referring to competing for guys. I went to an all-girls high school that was on the same campus as a coed university. Boys cutting through our courtyards to get to class were like fresh meat. Since there are so many more women than men in senior living, the same holds true for my loves: eligible nonnos are hard to come by and nonnas will compete for their attention. Ugh, brings me back.
Leo did outgrow his sleepless nights (thank God), but I won’t hold my breath when it comes to everything else.