experiencing community from inside the apartment?

Can we feel like we are part of the community if we are not physically engaging it?

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It was cold. It was dark. It was crowded. The lighting of the Washington Monument in early December is a tradition in Baltimore. Many people wander over to the Monument to eat, drink and be merry. Yet, dragging Mom out of her cozy chair on a cold evening seemed inordinately cruel. So, like last year, we watched the proceedings from my living room window. The Monument lights – about four blocks away – were turned on and fireworks filled the sky. We drank hot chocolate, ate cookies and ooh’d and aah’d at the fireworks. But, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that we weren’t more engaged. 

Mom doesn’t get out much. Actually, she only goes out to the doctor’s office and to have a monthly lunch out with her nephew/my cousin. When I mention going out to sit in the sun or to people-watch in the lobby, she seems interested “in theory” but not so much in practice. She enjoys being out at the time but doesn’t really seem to want to do more. I have mixed feelings about pushing her to do more – I can’t help but feel that there is something she’s not telling me about why she doesn’t want to leave the apartment.

It’s a balancing act. Much as I want Mom to embrace her new city, she is an adult and has the right to choose what she does all day. She likes to read, do jigsaw puzzles, knit, watch old movies or crazy TV shows, help out with light cleaning, and so on. She spends the day doing things that she enjoys. She is not depressed or anti-social. She is leery of going out because she doesn’t know the city, but I’ve explained that we would make sure any activities were structured. So, I am trying to decide whether she stays in because of fear or because she is contented with the current state of affairs.

If Mom is contented, then “getting out” may be my issue, not hers. I want her to make friends, but then, I’m not the best example of a “joiner” either. Maybe it’s hereditary!

Before she moved down, she had great friends with whom she went shopping or to lunch. Sometimes they got together to do crafts. Since she lost that companionship, maybe I’m trying to recreate that part of her life. In a way, though, that is not possible – she knew these people for 20+ years. They shared the experience of working together or doing crafts together or being in the same social groups. That familiarity and common ground cannot just be replicated because I want it to be; it takes time and shared interests and compatible personalities.

Perhaps we could find people who share her interests and they would become friends, but it may be that engaging with strangers would just exacerbate her sense of being alone. It might make her miss her friends even more. Is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. She sometimes laments that she doesn’t have anyone here to visit with, but she also is not really interested in cultivating such a relationship. In fact, she seems quite happy doing the things she enjoys – reading, doing puzzles and crafts, etc. Perhaps I should be happy that she is able to do these things and that she seems contented.

This does mean that I have to figure out ways to engage people here, so that she can meet people and still feel comfortable. This is important because she needs to know others in the building. After all, what if I have to travel for work or something happens and I end up in the hospital? So, Mom and I have to build a social network. Should be an interesting transition for both of us.

2 thoughts on “experiencing community from inside the apartment?”

  1. We had this issue with my dad and i do not think we ever managed to get him to do something he really wanted to do. My husband & i lived 70 miles away, so we left that burden pretty much to my brother & sister who were living with him. Indeed, my brother moved from Boston to Dallas to get dad out & moving. It didn’t work out that way. From the beginning he served dad things like his coffee, which he later realized was an error. (I know you mention this elsewhere when discussing your mom.) It allowed dad to limit his movement.

    One avenue i wish we had explored better is the Senior Citizen center here. He knew about it & even visited a time or two but found no reason to go regularly. As i mentioned, we didn’t live here (my siblings didn’t qualify for the center at the time), so we didn’t know much about what was offered. Now we live in the city & see many activities your mom might like but still have found nothing which we feel would have motivated dad. My husband & i are taking a conversational French class there, so we automatically met 5 other people and shared stories.

    For your mother, you may find a group who like to do the crafts she enjoys. Our center has a weekly gathering of seniors who knit together. Each bring their own project but there is also an on-going community hat and blanket making session, too. The quilters are working on a large quilt for the domestic abuse shelter but some also bring their own smaller projects to work on instead. Thus far that’s all we’ve seen beside numerous games being played–cards, dominoes, mahjong and board games (Risk! is popular) at tables across the room. Just a thought on that. I don’t know how good/active other centers are. When we lived in the Dakotas the center was mainly for Meals On Wheels dining in.

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    1. I think if my mother was either still in her hometown or at a senior living facility with activities, she might engage in more things. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know anyone and doesn’t seem to want to go out. She is too nervous and scared to try something new. I do want to contact the church and there are a couple of people in the building who might help out, but it’s a challenge. If I was around during the day, I could take her but I’m working. Thanks for the suggestions, though. I will keep trying!

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