Visiting the elderly

Visiting the elderly

The interview with George Hantgan that was the foundation of last week’s cover story got us thinking.

Mr. Hantgan has had 98 intensely lived years. Most people have never met even one president in the White House, let alone three, and probably the number of people who have killed a cockroach in a dining room there is even smaller. Most people have not been in on the creation of two agencies that arguably did more than any other to shape the local Jewish community in which we glory now.

But even if you are not George Hantgan – and by definition, with just one exception, absolutely you are not – you cannot reach even the near shores of old age without having a repository of stories.

It is an undeniable if sad truth that many old people are lonely. They frighten younger people, who see in them a reminder of their own mortality, and they seem alienatingly different. Sometimes they do not hear too clearly, and sometimes their references are so dated as to seem foreign.

But the elderly are exactly as human as the rest of us. Like us, they relish friendship, companionship, and an available ear – and for that matter, they can listen as well as they can talk, and they can provide hard-earned advice. They can give perspective. In order to reach their ages, by definition they have lived.

The elderly, like everybody of any age, can both give and receive love.

The Jewish Home at Rockleigh, where Mr. Hantgan lives, welcomes visitors. Many residents yearn for company, particularly the ones whose children live far away and cannot visit often, and the ones who do not have children. Visitors are always welcome to the home’s large, light-filled public rooms, and on nice days, like the ones that we take on faith will shine on us eventually, they can wheel residents out to the lake and bask companionably in the sun.

If you are interested in visiting Rockleigh, call the director of volunteers, Charlene Vannucci, at (201) 750-4237. Last week, Mr. Hantgan invited visitors to spend an after-dinner hour with him. And if you’re interested in visiting anyplace else – perhaps closer to home – just call. You’ll be welcome.

Not only will the person you visit benefit from it – so will you.