Members of the SAND Action Group have been giving some thought to SAND – what they feel about it – how and why it feels so vibrant, what works about it, why they want to stay engaged and the key things to help others who may want to replicate. Their responses will be posted on this and future blogs.
I think the first word I would say about SAND is ‘passion’, as in ‘compassion’. Another way of putting it is that SAND is ‘passionate about compassion’, which is key to care in later life.
In 1980 I met a 99 year old woman who was struggling to walk by my apartment building. She finally sat in a chair under a shady tree outside her daughter’s home and I went to speak with her, but ended up sitting quietly with her. Finally she turned to me and said, ‘Why are you sitting here with me, when you could be doing something exciting?’ I stumbled through my answer about thinking she would like someone to visit with and then she said, ‘You know I may be old in body, but my mind still dreams of doing all sorts of things.’ It was then we got into some interesting conversation about just what those dreams were. It was enlightening to learn that just because you get older does not mean you stop dreaming, or loving those you have lost, or simply being who you are. Texana (named after the State of Texas), had been a great adventurer and independent woman in her youth, which came out in every word she spoke. Although she did not say it out loud, it appeared she was also a lesbian.
At SAND everyone believes that getting older should not exclude being who you are, whether that is lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. Nor does it mean you stop wanting to be accepted or to make new friends, even in a care home. It also means that those who love you, straight or gay, want you to be happy and cared for as well.
I have enjoyed (and still enjoy) working with such a compassionate group of people at SAND and am amazed and proud to be part of something that is really starting to awaken people to the issues around growing older and not losing your identity in the process.
What do others need to replicate SAND:
A group of like-minded and compassionate people who believe that no one need lose their identity in later life. And, instead of telling older people what they should do or what we expect of them, perhaps we should ask: ‘What have you done, that you should live so long?’
Did you know if you average the ages of all the human beings who have ever lived, the average age of life-expectancy is… 17 years. So living to be over 70 is quite a feat!