A Swing Set

My brother recently purchased a new home and in the backyard, there is a single swing left by the previous owner. While at his house for a visit I thought of a resident I worked with several years ago who once said, “I wish there was a swing set for us old people. We want to swing too you know.” This was her reaction after seeing a group of children out for recess. There is something about sitting on a playground swing on a nice day that brings back memories from my own childhood, and for this woman, also memories of pushing her kids in the swing and teaching them how to get the swing to go higher and higher with each movement of their body. It brought back memories of enjoyment, friendships, motherhood, and summer.
We have often looked at play and aging, it is the broken record topic, that until we universally realize the depth of the human spirit we must revisit this conversation. The comment the woman made to a volunteer that day, I found, did more than tell us she wanted to swing on a swing-set, it was an expression of the desire to live a fuller life than the one currently supported. She was a resident of a care community that dedicated itself to those living with dementia and was becoming a leader in the industry, but they still missed the mark. They missed the active part of life and focused solely on the passive enjoyment gained from watching others. She wanted to play. She wanted to dance with the program facilitators. She wanted to live fully within the bounds of her current physical and mental limits and then see if she could stretch them. How can we, the caregivers and care team, help others stretch and play with the limits of their perceived capabilities? How can we stretch our own thinking and our own limits to see what we can do to better care for others? How can we build a swing set for those “old people?”

Published by Kathryne Fassbender

Creative Gerontologist, Speaker, Catholic Innovator. I am also the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia.

2 thoughts on “A Swing Set

  1. Kate, I am enjoying your blog. Just wanted to comment that the discussion could be enriched by considering how people live in cultures other than the areas of the US that you know. For example, in many Indian homes, large swings are a part of the living room. These swings are basically benches suspended from the ceiling, that can support the weight of 2 adults sitting next to each other, a grandparent and grandchild, mother and child, so many different possibilities. The swing moves slowly and gently while family members and friends sit around in the living room and talk. The large swing is a wonderful place to nap, perhaps with a family pet. We can learn a lot from the ways ancient cultures have evolved to embrace dementia as most elders in Indian families live at home with their children, nieces/nephews and/or grandchildren.

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