As we come into the holiday season, many of us reflect back on the “old days” – and sometimes they seem more poignant now than when they were happening! One question that has always haunted me is what is the difference between being an elder and being elderly? Is it like the difference between a “tween” and a teen? Seems more serious than that – but should it? I can only use my own life as an example. My mother was always a “pistol”; always full of life and full of love But we made it work. When she moved in with me she was already 80! But I would not have called her elderly. My mother smiled a big smile. She nodded as if she understood you, when she could not hear a word someone said even with her hearing aid (except when I was with her and had to repeat everything directly into her ear). She would throw kisses at every baby that passed, waved at people who smiled at her. She was, in a word, happy. She enjoyed life. It was all a big adventure to her. While she was an elder, over the years she grew elderly. In the 12 years she lived with me, the change was clear. But I tried as best as I could to TREAT her as an elder, while I CARED for her, in many cases, as the elderly woman she was becoming. My mother had lived with me for over 12 years. For the last years she and I traded the role of the one who gave and the one who received. My mom still is the elder of the family in everyone’s mind, only in her physical frailty was she elderly…

Maryellen Kernaghan is Director Kernaghan Associates ArtsCare www.artscareus.org521 E. 6th Street #2 New York, NY 10009

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” -Twyla Tharp [subscribe2]


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