Sunday, January 19, 2014

A DAY OUTING WITH THREE OCTOGENARIANS

It was my uncle's idea to begin with. To take his eldest sister (that's my mom) to see the Christmas decorations in the city. I thought it was an excellent idea. He would provide the wheels (I gave up driving in 1998), and I would provide the care. We could invite his other sister (that's my aunt), and make it a siblings outing.

So there we were, early in the morning on the second day of the new year - my uncle, 80, my aunt, 83, and my mother, 87 - all octogenarians in varying degrees of health and mobility. My uncle has had a bypass, my recently widowed aunt has difficulty walking, and my mom has dementia.

My mom - getting a trim before stepping out
My uncle's pick of the malls was Pavilion. It has the best Christmas decorations, he said. A Google search and some phone calls later confirmed that all the premier malls had their festive decorations taken down just the day before. It was a huge disappointment for my uncle, and more so for the sisters. They had been so looking forward to the outing.

We decided to go ahead anyway. We drove to MidValley Mall as it was the nearest and most convenient. This was what greeted us - a bare concourse. The Christmas decorations had just been taken down, and the Chinese New Year ones were yet to be put up. What a disappointment!


Since it was still too early for all the retail outlets to open, it was down memory lane with the photos that my uncle had the foresight to bring along. It was heartwarming to see the siblings poring over the black and white photos from an era long passed, and laughing at the memories each photo stirred up. Vintage photos preserve so much better than the colour ones.

From left: my mom, my uncle and my aunt, reminiscing over photos of the good old days

Next stop was the bowling alley, followed by the video arcade and the cineplexes all on the top floor. My uncle probably thought his sisters would enjoy a peek into the world of Gen Y and Z. The only stop that really interested them was The World of Feng Shui. Not surprising considering the older generation's penchant for anything even remotely related to auspicious signs and talismans of prosperity, good health and longevity.

Welcoming the Year of the Horse with a photo next to the Gods of Fortune, Prosperity and Longevity.

We made several stops to allow my aunt to rest, and my mom to pop into the rest rooms. MidValley is one of the few malls that have elderly-friendly facilities like benches to sit on and rest tired feet, and special toilets and ramps for the wheelchair bound.

I have only two complaints. As the lifts were located at the far ends of each floor, it was quite a distance for my uncle to push my mom's wheelchair and also for my aunt to walk even with me helping her. Another problem was the lack of space inside the shops for easy wheelchair manoeuvrability. How do shoplot operators expect customers in wheelchairs to check out the merchandise on sale, or even to try on some clothes in the narrow fitting-rooms?

Enjoying a sit-down meal of chicken rice, steamed chicken, barbecue pork and bean sprouts

Our last stop was at the Chicken Rice Shop where we had lunch. When it comes to choosing food for the elderly, it is best to stick with dishes they are accustomed to, and that is easily digestible. Order anything spicy, chewy or exotic, you might find the food untouched. The same applies for drinks. It's either warm water or hot Chinese tea.

The last time I took my mom out to a mall with my uncle was to KLCC. The wheelchair lift from the basement to the lower ground floor was under repair. The last I checked, which was just last week, it was still under repair. First World infrastructure at the city's premier mall, but Third World maintenance. 

Some advice for anyone planning to take the elderly for an outing in the city:

  • pack a small bag containing a tumbler of drinking water, some snacks, an adult diaper, some wet wipes to clean sticky fingers and mouth after a meal, and a foldable walking aid cum seat. Not all malls provide wheelchairs or have sufficient rest benches.
  • vehicle transport must be elderly-friendly. Old people have difficulty getting into and out of a car with seats that are too high or too low. SUVs are out, so are 2-door sedans.
  • check whether the places you want to visit provide elderly-friendly facilities e.g. wheelchair parking, ramps, toilets and rest-rooms for the disabled.
  • make a mental note of where the rest rooms are. Incontinence is common among the elderly. 
  • look out for signs of tiredness. Old people are known for being stoic and also stubborn. They may not want to admit they are tired even when you see them slowing down or nodding off.
  • where possible, have one able person or caregiver to take care of one elderly person 1:1. In our case, it was one baby boomer (that's me) to three octogenarians. Not a recommended ratio.
  • check if they have taken their medication, or need to bring it along.

One thing is for sure, there will be another outing soon for my aunt and mom, if my uncle is up to it. This time we will make sure there are plenty of festive decorations to awe and dazzle the elderly members of my family.

Postscript:

I dropped by at KLCC yesterday (21 Jan), and was impressed by the CNY decorations at the concourse.

There's a giant scroll featuring a beautiful Chinese landscape painting on the other side of the golden horse.
Ushering in the Year of the Horse

3 comments:

Justin Choo said...

It is heart-warming to see elderly siblings having fun together.

Pak Idrus said...

Thanks for sharing.

Robyn Lee said...

That was beautiful and by the looks on their faces in the photos your mother, aunt and uncle look to be really enjoying themselves. It's lovely you went along with them, too.