Dancing with the Elderly

They laughed like children with no worries. Tapping their hands, swinging their arms, singing off tune, the room full of nursing home patients swelled with joy as the pianist played familiar choruses… and we danced. My family visited a sweet elderly woman after church this week and we were in turn blessed with many new friends. After we finished our visit, the walk back down the hall moved our hearts as one hurting person after another hid behind rows of enclosed cubicles.

Each door cracked to reveal a pale, wrinkled person obviously near the end of life’s journey. Living the last days in the walls of this sprawling home…some of them very alone.

Through one opening a patient sat alone in a cold wheel chair staring at nothing. Another area held two fragile souls playing dominos together…the man pushing the ivory with a wooden rod clenched in his teeth because his withered hands betrayed him.

Treading softly down the corridor each family member smiled, nodded and kindly waved at any old soul willing to receive a greeting. As we neared the lobby my husband told me to wait with the kids, he would pull the car into the circle drive for us.

He walked out the door and I surveyed the lobby.

My heart tugged in many directions and I longed to touch each of the souls frozen in time. I looked at the faces and wondered about their family members. What was each person’s story? How old were these people? They could have been 120 for all I could tell. What events landed each one here? Vitality and soundness of mind had departed from most of these people and they sat wheel chairs listening to the pianist play tune after tune.

I drew my kids closer to the half circle of lives and motioned for the kids to greet the elderly. Smiles lit the wrinkled faces as my children hugged and helloed each member. One woman was especially happy to see young faces. She reached for my seven-year-old daughter and held my young one’s hands out in front of her and said,


My shy quiet child looked at me for instruction.

Yes, daughter, DANCE, my head nodded.

Her cheeks flushed yet she began to spin and turn, dancing to please her new friend. My little one was way out of her comfort zone, but she knew somewhere deep down inside that she wasn’t dancing for this precious elderly soul, she was dancing for Jesus…so she continued.

The expressions of the women in the room cried for more. With the baby on my hip, I moved to the front with my daughter and joined her in turning and swaying. Giggles bubbled out of the chubby one in my arms and the room filled with approval.

The women sat up.

They clapped.

They sang.

They relived happy memories in their own lives.

And the music played on.

I could have danced for hours, but I knew my husband was waiting in the circle drive in the front of the nursing home. Apparently he had been waiting too long, because I saw him walk through the door in search of his family. Then our eyes locked in the middle of one of my spins and his face smiled one of those,
Take your time smiles.

He shares my heart for these people at the end of their lives. Old people should be respected, visited, enjoyed.

Not put away, shrugged off and disregarded.

Our family will kiss the wrinkled faces of our new friends and dance for them again this coming Sunday, and I have no doubt we will enjoy it as much as they do.