We have the sweetest neighbour here in San Diego. "Grandma Lee" recently turned 95 and lives all alone next door. Her son is estranged and she hasn't heard from him in years, and her daughter lives in Colorado.
Like many of the elderly people I've lived around, she's a rather independent soul even at such a frail age. We used to see her shuffle past our door and drive off in her car to get groceries or head to the bank, but recently her car hasn't moved from its parking spot. Just before her birthday, she asked Madge to take her to the DMV so that she could renew her driver's license. She managed to pass the test and could drive her car, but since receiving her new license, I think she's moved her car only one time – she says the battery is dead.
No one visits her. No one came for Christmas. Since her car wasn't working, Madge has intercepted her, with the help of Lauryn, as she tried to walk to either the bank or grocery store – neither of which is reasonably close for someone of her age. In fact, her bank is more than a mile away and on the other side of a deep valley. Since Madge caught her trying to walk to the grocery store, her daughter has been ordering (over the internet) groceries to be delivered, but she still needs to go to the bank once a month.
Madge was busy with two sick kids yesterday – Sophia was asleep in bed and Lauryn was in jammies – when Grandma Lee walked past yesterday. Several minutes went by before she realized that this sweet elderly woman was wearing a hat and handbag and, regardless of our previous offerings to help, was attempting to trek somewhere again. But despite feeling responsible to help her, Madge didn't dare leave Lauryn and Sophia alone while she ran down the street to look for and stop her.
I was at work, a few blocks away, packing up my cubicle as our office is moving. I understood Madge's position but still felt obligated, and compelled, to look out for, and find, this aged soul. We don't live close to our own parents and I often feel bad for not being in a position to assist them, but find it consoling to be able to keep an eye on our aged neighbour in their stead.
After deducing the direction she most likely walked, as she uses bus-stop benches as resting places, I ran off from work to a place on a nearby road where I hoped I'd be able to find her. It had been about 25 minutes since Madge had first seen her, and she didn't expect I'd be able to find her. But as I ran up to the corner where I was going to start looking, I was amazed to see Grandma Lee standing next to the stop-light pole, waiting to cross the street.
I ran up and told her, "Hi, I'm your neighbour, are you ok?" I was glad to see both surprise and relief enter her face, and I quickly told her that Brenda would come and we could drive her to her bank. I had a two-way radio with me and was able to talk to Madge at home to tell her that I'd indeed found Grandma Lee, and where she could find us. (By then Lauryn had gotten dressed and Sophia had woken up.)
I helped her shuffle back to a nearby bench where we waited for Madge. She told me of her plan and how she underestimated the distance. When she drives in her car, it seems so close, but she'd only been able to walk 1/6 of the way. She feels like if she gives up some of her independence that she'll quickly lose all her abilities. For her age she does amazingly well, but I feel its rather risky to live completely alone and independent, especially now that she's losing the capability of caring for herself. But, as with many elderly people, she doesn't want to live in a "home," so for now she'll keep on alone. Hopefully we'll be able to keep her from voyaging.