OPEN FORUM – BRIAN O’NEIL – I’m a resident of a gated, 55-and-older community on the Central Oregon Coast. Like many of my neighbors, I live alone. Every time I climb a ladder, I ask myself, “If I fall, I wonder how long it might take someone to find me.” Young men hate asking for directions. Old men hate asking for help.
One of the neighborhood’s more colorful characters also lives alone and turns 82 in April. He’s best known for shuffling stiffly out of his house whenever a leashed dog approaches his green lawn. More than a few residents take their dogs past his house to test his resolve. A bright white lawn sign reads, “No Dogs Please.” That is the limit of his civility.
At the first sign of an incursion, this elderly gentleman appears on his porch, unleashing a litany of insults that question his neighbor’s ability to read. Years of isolation and loneliness have rusted his social skills. In spite of his obvious hostility, the octogenarian is desperate for human contact, even if the contact is contentious.
The sources of his distress aren’t obvious. A prostate the size of an orange disturbs his sleep. An achy rotator cuff only adds to his nightly distress. His hearing is so diminished, few are willing to engage in the shouting that masquerades as conversation. Lonely and angry, this aging Korean War veteran is desperate for a little attention.
When looking for a way to give back to your community, consider sharing a little of yourself with an elderly neighbor. Dealing with his or her deafness, depression and dementia may be emotionally taxing, but it is energy well spent.