Aging in Place: March 2021

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I was asked by the editor of Tualatin Life to write a column on my experience with the ice/snow storm we just experienced. I thought about it, and my initial reaction was why would anyone care what I might have gone through. All of us went through something from slightly inconvenient to overwhelming and devastating. So I thought some more, said ok and this is what happened to me.

The Thursday before the storm arrived I went to the grocery store and filled my car gas tank. I checked the house for candles and batteries. I was CERT trained years ago and still remember precautions to take and how to prepare for an emergency – not that I always follow them. Friday and Saturday was like “gee it’s snowing.” Sunday afternoon we lost power. Then the house got colder and then it got to be nightfall and dark. Candles don’t put out much light and certainly no heat. Fortunately for me I’m okay eating cold food.

Sleeping was awkward and a bit uncomfortable with layered clothing and three extra blankets and still cold. Monday was tolerable and boring. Somehow my son found a generator and we were able to plug in the refrigerator and freezer. I opted for saving the food over heat. By Tuesday I was wearing gloves in the house because I couldn’t get my hands warm. Again, my son checked on me and asked what I needed. I said just light and heat, mostly joking. He found a hotel room and I was packed and ready to go in 15 minutes. It was amazing. Came home on Thursday to power. Thank you PGE and all the men and women who have worked so hard for our comfort.

So, sounds pretty comfy for me doesn’t it and you would be right. Sure I whined I was cold and bored but truth be told I was fine. What did I learn from all this? What I took for granted was I thought heat, light, hot water, TV, internet and phone are absolute necessities for me to function every day. They aren’t. Now they are my luxuries. Even worse, when I got home, I didn’t have cell service at my house. Now panic set in because I knew I couldn’t survive without constant contact, texting and Facebook posts. I said I would lose heat and light again to have my phone. Wrong again. I survived just fine without it for a few hours, even though it felt like an eternity, and service finally was reconnected by nightfall.

Now, I know this is all about me and you are saying who cares and what’s her point. You experienced way worse than I did and you aren’t complaining. What I came away from that week of the storm with its downside and aftermath is that I take too much for granted, I don’t always do a good job or make a better effort to stay connected with my friends, that isolation feels like a disease or illness. On the upside, I learned those things also. 

In all my columns and advocacy for seniors, the one thing I write about but have never experienced until now is isolation and loneliness. If I can give myself and you one takeaway, no matter anyone’s age, young, middle or older, remember to stay connected. Make that phone call, say hello over the back fence, do a welfare check, take time for a visit over morning coffee or afternoon tea, connect by email or text – of all the necessities of life that we actually need or think we need, connection and contact is at the top of the list or should be.

It’s good for your health and for someone else’s health. We can all make a difference by extending ourselves, even just a little bit. Try it – I promise you it will feel good.