Chris is known as a hero in our communities. He patiently listens to and cares for the residents at 80th St. Residence where he works as their Assistant Director of Recreation. I have had the pleasure of working with Chris for many years, watching him facilitate meaningful engagement with our Sweet Readers, first in person in Manhattan and most recently, through Zoom, connecting residents with our Sweet Readers in Chicago, New York, Toronto and Greenwich.
I was amazed to learn that Chris struggles with self esteem issues as he is so filled with love and light and works so hard to ensure his residents are seen, heard and respected. It is important for each of us to see each other more fully, to lean in and listen. With great courage, Chris shared his personal experiences here and I hope he serves as inspiration for you.
- What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced, both personally and as a hands on staff person at 80th Street Residence, during the pandemic? My personal challenges have been mostly internal. I have struggled with low self-esteem for some time now, more relating to my own capabilities and talents. One of my greatest handicaps has been trusting my own decision making, as I have made some that have not only burned me but also the people I love. Here at 80th Street my greatest challenge was learning how to not take it personally when one of our residents were having a bad day and lashed out at me. Since I am a person with self-esteem issues, those experiences would trigger my self-doubt, so I would constantly ask myself “what did I do wrong, maybe I should have done this… or that.”
- How have you overcome those challenges? My personal challenges are still a work in progress, but what usually helps is listening to motivational content on the way to work or going for a long run. Since covid hit I haven’t been running as much but now with the warmer weather and more and more people getting vaccinated, the desire to run more has been building. As for the challenge I’ve faced at 80th Street, it just took time and education. The more I understood what our residents were experiencing, the less important my own ego became. I realized my mindset needed to change, that’s when patience became my go to strategy and I stopped worrying so much about being perfect and focused more on being a student.
- What have you learned in the process? I’ve learned that patience is the “secret sauce” to success, at least in this line of work and with the population I currently serve.I am also trying to incorporate that into more aspects of my life.
- How do you think the pandemic has impacted our elderly population, the ones who will survive and how do you think their lives might be changed moving forward? The impacts of this pandemic have been numerous, but isolation has by far outweighed most. Family visits have always been at the very top of every resident’s wish list, both during and prior to this pandemic. So when visitations were restricted it was heartbreaking for the residents, their families, and for the staff as well. We had to bear witness to the effect it had on them which at first left us with an inescapable sense of helplessness, but we knew we had to do something. What has helped our resident, I think, has been the fact that we here at 80th Street have always strived to create a family atmosphere for residents and staff alike. Since families were not allowed to be here, we’ve done all we can to fill that void, which in turn has made our bonds with our residents much stronger. That’s the major positive I’ll take away from all of this.
- What advice would you give to others, especially those who care for older adults? I like to answer this by quoting The “Golden Rule” of Leviticus. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” I think if we could all adopt this simple rule, our collective quality of life could soar to unimaginable heights.