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Forgotten People, Forgotten Places The SeniorScape®

Updated: May 7

Who are the forgotten people, and where are the forgotten places?


Recently, I’ve written about my experiences working as a speech/language pathologist in a remote city in upstate New York.  When I first traveled to this small town, I made no secret of the fact that because it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing there. It was winter; it was bleak, cold, and deserted.


As the months passed, and I continued to travel there for work every few weeks for a week or so, I began looking for places to eat. On one particular night, when I saw my car’s tire pressures were low, I drove along a major thoroughfare to find someplace that provided air. Even that was not an easy find. As I was driving I found a restaurant serving barbecue. I love barbecue. Even though initially it seemed peculiar to see this barbecue place in a remote area in upstate NY, I decided to give it a try. It was some of the best barbecue I had ever eaten.


Every time I visited this small town, I stopped to eat at the barbecue restaurant at least once. One night I decided to sit at the bar and began talking with a man who turned out to be the owner. As we talked, he began sharing the history of the area. It’s the birthplace of major national brands, companies and food products. Being of curious mind, that certainly whetted my appetite to learn more.


On each trip, I talked to people I met about what I learned. The more people I spoke with, the more I learned. People graciously made introductions so that I could learn that much more.


The past two trips were even more amazing. I began branching out into the community.

People began inviting me to local events. The more I ventured out, the more I saw, and, of course, the more I learned.


It struck me that this rural town, which seems abandoned and forgotten, albeit for a few remaining hidden gems and major companies, bears resemblance to the people we abandon and forget, especially older adults.


People may now look weathered and tattered, who have a life’s journey with rich stories to tell, important tales and lessons to share. We look at them the way I looked at this place. They are often abandoned now with their best years behind.


In this small nursing home facility, almost everyone knows someone or is related to someone in the community. People in the community began telling me to talk to specific residents who not only knew the town’s history, but also had interesting connections to the past.


As I spoke with them, listening to the richness of the stories and the history of the town, I knew how important it was to share what I’ve learned.


We all have access to history. We can hit a button on a search engine and feed our minds with whatever we want to know.


But the richness of the history is in the stories from the people who lived through it, who have first-hand accounts, either directly or generationally.


One story I learned is a family legacy passed down from several generations. When I related what I knew to the person whose family was involved in this story, his face beamed with pride.  That story is important for a family with deep roots in the town’s history. That smile told a story in and of itself.  I wouldn’t have learned that story, if not for the people I spoke with who lived there for generations.


The first-hand accounts that were told made it seem like I had lived there during that time. It made it much more real than if I had merely searched information online.


That is what we lose when we devalue older adults, their stories and their experiences. It’s beyond the wisdom and life lessons, but the richness of history and places.


The story of how I came to travel to this small upstate town is another one of my life’s lessons.

I had been working on a project for months, a project that would culminate in a lucrative

payout. However, unforeseen circumstances beyond my control resulted in a untimely delay. As a result, I needed to fuel my income by other means.


I turned to a friend who told me about this nursing home in a remote area in upstate NY that needed professional expertise. Despite the long journey, I decided to go ahead.

Once there, I realized the amount of work that was needed to care for the patients adequately. Thus, I suggested a trip of a week or so every several weeks.


It was only most recently, learning and appreciating the rich history, that I realized I was never so grateful for something to have not worked out as I anticipated. Information that will contribute to a project near and dear to my heart. The film project I’m pursuing will highlight the importance of elder wisdom, intergenerational relationships, and how our society values for older adults. Oddly enough, I learned was that the author lived in the area when he wrote the book. The landscape likely informed the setting. Aha!!!! I found my film location.


None of this would have happened if my other project had come to fruition last fall as initially expected.


This has been another important lesson of this journey. Timing is a heck of a thing.

Try as we might, sometimes it isn’t the right time for what we want. There are other important lessons to be learned or things to understand.


Here are two questions to ponder:


Have there been times when you’ve been led down a path that unexpectedly gave you insights or lessons learned? In the end you were grateful for the path before you?


Are there people in your life or your community, from whom you could learn valuable lessons or information about your family or community that you wouldn’t otherwise learn through traditional means?



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