Salomons: Seniors from the kitchen

“A lot of mornings I don’t even want to get out of bed; it’s everything I can do to get myself up and out to work.”

These were words I heard from an elderly heavy equipment operator. There’s not a lot of work for him right now and all the idle time plays havoc with his mind. “Quite often I ask myself, what’s the point,” the exasperation is evident in his voice as he carries on, “I mean, what’s it all for.”

Young people often suffer from temporary depression cycles, but I have found that the older they get, the tone in their voice changes. Young people have their down times but still always with a glimmer of hope. The more senior they are, the less I hear that tiny bit of hope in their voice.

The only other times that I hear that tone is from totally immersed addicts or alcoholics coming out of a binge. Still somehow though, with seniors there is a greater difference. I wonder if it has to do with the after effects of their life experiences. No doubt they have had their share of successes, failures and challenges and it is often the balance of these involvements that shape their thinking processes.

One of the largest contributing debilitations that folks who come to the kitchen suffer from is depression, some drug influenced, others from a system imbalance, or reaction to past or even present events. Paranoia is also a very huge reason that they come; they can’t work so they’re poor and use the kitchen to get by. Plus, it is a place where they feel they are safe and accepted, or at least tolerated.

If a senior has used a lot of drugs or even just a lot of pot in the past, their outlook on life often develops negatively and they seem much more prone to depression and regret or even anger.

Among people who live and know a better or more affluent lifestyle, even there you often hear a bitter edge creeping in to their voice. We can easily be drawn into a complaining or negative attitude when we associate with people who feel this way.

It is common when greeting each other to ask, “How are you”? I don’t often ask that at the kitchen anymore because where the usual reply is anything from good to OK to not so good, I also have received a fifteen-minute tirade on bad health, bad experiences at the government offices and or other negative responses.

With seniors though, it is different. The tone of their voice is not as expressive as younger people; it is likely to be very deadpan; almost devoid of life. This really accentuates the depressive way that they feel.

When that way of thinking is primary in our lives, it is easy to see why more and more folks are bowing out of ‘normal’ life, hence the unemployed by choice. Many though still manage to rise above that way of thinking and they will always be either working or looking for work, but there again, there may be other factors for the fact that they cannot find or hold a job. Age, abilities or health issues, both physical and mental, are some of the reasons they cannot find work, which then can lead to increased depression.

It’s bothersome at the kitchen to see the older folks so desperately trying to live a normal life that past experiences have taken away from them. They of any need our encouragement and support. Even more so than young people who still have a life to live and look forward to.

It doesn’t cost a lot to encourage someone with a kind word or gesture, especially someone who is to the point of giving up.

Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.

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