When We Need to Adapt

A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of taking a week’s vacation with my husband and a couple who are our very close friends.  We’ve taken vacations together before so we know both each other’s preferences and even the roles we tend to play.  I am typically the travel agent for our little band of four, finding the places to stay, coming up with activities and booking restaurants.  It’s not that I have any particular gift for this, it just works out that way (or maybe it’s a sign of my being the biggest control freak of the four of us but we won’t go there!).

Our friends live in the Midwest and they really had not experienced the East Coast before so we all thought that an East Coast vacation would be fun.  We planned two nights in Boston to get a good dose of history and then heading up to Maine to explore and relax.  I booked the hotel in Boston and then, with a few quick keystrokes, found a great house to rent in Maine.  The pictures were beautiful, a serene cabin with amazing waterfront views.

The long awaited day finally arrived, we headed to Boston and had two great days. Then we got back in the car and started towards our rental in Maine.  It may have been a clue when I could not get the address to even show up in the GPS but it wasn’t.  I got “close enough” and handed my phone off to the driver and navigator in the front seat.  As we got close, my husband pointed out to me that the dot on the GPS had no road leading to it, that there was definitely water between the destination and where we currently were.

After initially deflecting this as a GPS issue, I realized that was not the case.  I reached out to the property owner who immediately sent me an email containing information I had not seen before, specifically that the house was only reachable by water.  He gave us directions to a dock and the staff took us across the water and told us they’d bring a dinghy back for our use.  Since none of us are boaters, this was a bit of an eye opener.

Our eyes got even wider when we got to the dock, climbed up the steep ramp and, as I continued to recite the email directions, found ourselves dragging suitcases up a small dirt hill to find the home owner’s ATV (all terrain vehicle).  The four of us piled into the two seats and bounced our way over the dirt path, rocks and tree stumps to the cabin.

Turned out the cabin was beautiful, just as we had seen it in the pictures.  Great space, fully equipped kitchen and incredible water views.  And every time we wanted to go anywhere else, we had our own version of “planes, trains, automobiles” with ATV and dinghy.  We learned a lot of new skills like starting stubborn boat motors, tying up at docks and spending a week in a house that was basically “off the grid.”

What we really learned, though, was how important it is to adapt, how vital it is to be able to “go with the flow” when we need to, to be able to adjust to circumstances that were not at all what we planned and make it work.  Some of us needed a little time to adjust to this new reality, some of us immediately and pragmatically just moved forward and neither approach was wrong, just different.

I couldn’t help but think about these lessons as they apply to the world of older adult services.  So often we see people who are wrestling with big and unexpected changes, changes in health, loss of loved ones and friends, changes in abilities and changes in living situation.  It is so vital for us to remember that these changes affect us all differently and we respond to them as equally differently.  There is no clear GPS destination and we have to support them, and one another, as they find their way.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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