In nursing homes and neighborhoods across Luzerne County, you’ll find older people who, while not underappreciated or forgotten, sometimes feel that way.
Often, their children are grown and gone, except for hurried holiday visits. Familiar pursuits no longer seem possible. Careers have ended. What’s left?
As it turns out, plenty of living.
And kudos to the countless area volunteers and caring workers, people such as Jason Garcia, 22, and Lois Gelb, 70, whose actions for and among the birthday-rich set have helped to uplift spirits, spark conversations, rekindle memories and, in some cases, stir new interests.
Garcia applies his artistic flair as a painter of iconic and all-American images to enliven the walls — and, arguably, the atmosphere — at North Penn Manor, an assisted-living facility in Wilkes-Barre. Behind the reception desk, his brush strokes “built” a lighthouse. For the cafeteria, he supplied the vibe of a 1950s-style diner.
Recently, the Sugar Notch resident, who attends Mansfield University, was at work in the manor’s community room, where he has revived familiar images of the sailor-nurse smooch celebrating the end of World War II, the Iwo Jima flag-raising, the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell. North Penn owner Judy Lee said: “He is so good with our residents. They love to watch him work.”
Gelb, a Kingston resident, has been a fixture for three decades at the area’s Jewish Community Center, where she was employed as senior adult program director. Colleagues and admirers will honor her service at a retirement luncheon set for today.
Supported by many volunteers, Gelb devised activities to keep minds active and bodies moving. She invited guest lecturers, coordinated craft events, scheduled concerts and otherwise kept the community center humming. There were Yiddish classes and concerts arranged. Trips booked. Parties planned.
“The goal was to keep seniors active and involved,” said Gelb. “I think we’ve done that.”
Garcia and Gelb, whose separate efforts were spotlighted in The Times Leader in recent days, illustrate how in ways large and small, long-term or periodic, committed individuals can support and show appreciation for the people who built our community, who parented and educated, designed and defended, scrapped and sacrificed.
These men and women paved the way and paid their dues. Yet many of them still have more to give and some to gain.
Even today, they desire to be involved. To interact. To contribute. To connect. To talk. To learn. To laugh.
If you can find a way to make that happen, why wouldn’t you? Contact an area nonprofit agency that serves older adults, an active adult center or care facility and ask what you can do.
One day, years from now, someone might return the favor.