Alice Barker, now 102-years-old used to be a dancer, a wonderful dancer who appeared in films all the way back to the era of the Harlem Renaissance. She recently got an unexpected visit that helped her roll back the clock some 80 years!
The alert and caring staff at the nursing home in Brooklyn where she lives alerted the folks at Jazz-on-Film.com that she might actually be somebody. They searched for, and found three films that Alice was featured in. Now bedridden, they brought the clips to her, gently placed an iPad in front of her, hit play, and melted the decades away.
The clip is heartwarming, beautiful and inspiring. And it helps underscore some very important points that we work hard to make at Growing Bolder.
If you’ve ever walked through the halls of a nursing home or a retirement community, you’ve probably done this: gaze downward to the floor and walk as briskly as you can to get where you’re headed. Absolutely do NOT make eye-contact with anyone! And, if the worst happens and someone tries to talk to you, just ignore them. But if contact is unavoidable be sure to talk to them like idiots because, of course, they are old. And they are infirmed. This means they are barely people.
But there is a big secret that few of us get. Every single one of them has a story to tell. An amazing story. Some happy, some sad. Some exciting, adventurous, dramatic and mysterious. They are all significant. They are all relevant. They are the stories of life. And every one of us can learn from them.
Out of respect, maybe it should be a requirement that the door of each residents room should display two photos, one current and one from their prime.
I have no doubt that many walk past Alice Barker’s room. Eyes to the floor, bustling by. Every time they do they walk right past history, past romance, past celebrity and past someone who was part of one of the most creative and vibrant eras in our history. Who knows who else has a wonderful story as well?
Even if they’d have glanced in, all most would see was a frail, wisp of a woman with shaky hands, quiet and alone. Even the good people who brought in those wonderful movie clips were giggling and cooing, “look, that was YOU,” as if she couldn’t possibly remember. They did a wonderful thing by reigniting the spark in Alice’s mind, opening a door in her memory to a place passed long ago.
Alice Barker is a treasure, a participant in history and apparently quite sharp. She has stories to tell. But there has been no one to listen.
Here’s the bottom line: We make a big mistake by segregating off the elderly. It’s disrespectful to them and it’s a huge loss to us. They are lonely, yet many seek the advice they possess. They are unappreciated where many are seeking the inspiration they can provide. They are overlooked in our futile search for wisdom.
People are now treating Alice like she is somebody special. Yes, she is! And so are all the others. Lets not ignore or de-value anyone because of age. Lets celebrate their journey, be curious about their experiences and discover how much richer our lives can be!