Wilma’s childhood was a simple one. Her parents lived on farms in Western Oklahoma. In that section of Oklahoma, there were few rivers and streams. Her mother was fearful of Wilma getting close to water. As a result, Wilma was seldom in water over ankle deep. As you can imagine, she grew to adulthood with a fear of deep water.
For most of the past forty years we have lived in Ontario. While living in Ontario arthritis began to affect Wilma more and more. She was treated by a chiropractor who suggested she began exercising in a pool. That was fine for her. She would stay in the shallow end and do the prescribed exercises.
At the age of 68, she persuaded me to join her in these water sessions in a local motel indoor pool. Several other older adults also made use of this pool. One day, while in the pool, she decided, “This is ridiculous. I’m in the pool. Why don’t I learn to swim?” She began by using a noodle and learning to kick and use her arms. The first time she lifted her feet off the bottom her eyes were almost as big as a two-dollar Canadian coin. However, with the encouragement and advice of other swimmers and me, she gradually discarded the noodle.
So, at the age of 68, she learned to swim across the deep part of the pool. She will never be a strong swimmer. But, she feels she has accomplished something that she never, for 68 years, dreamed she would do.
Waymon, her loving husband
“I Must Get Busy with Dying”
Here is some information about the wonderful artist in my class that you requested. She was 102. A number of years ago, I worked under a supervisor that had a really unique view about the elderly population. She felt that dignity and respect should be part of an older person’s life, even to the point that when an elderly person says it’s their time, we respect their decision. I always thought that this was a good thing to do, people should be in charge of their own lives, and when someone shares this information with you. You should respect their wishes and make this final transition as easy as it can be. Examples of this would be asking the senior if they’ve prepared paperwork or volunteering to write letters to loved ones.
I had been teaching art classes for some time when one of my students, age 102, missed a number of classes due to illness. I called her up to see if she was all right. She said she was a little tired – but figured it was time to get busy dying. I immediately offered her my services in anything she needed, contacting loved ones etc, when she let me know she might need help in getting the corn husks picked up. . . It seems my feisty art student was still very active in the nationally recognized Kentucky craft fair and had quite a reputation in making traditional corn husk dolls. She knew she wasn’t feeling well and knew she needed extra time in preparing all the materials – including DYEING the corn husks!
It just goes to show you that some seniors do very well in responding to the challenges of growing older and continue to lead very active lives despite the stereotypes that youngun’s like us often have!
Resident Programs Director