Several times a day I walk past or into our Garden Terrace recreation room. There is always a puzzle that has been spilled out onto a long table along the window wall. And, there is often a person there putting it together. It is rare I see the same person, but over the course of a week or so the puzzle gets completed.
People approach the puzzle differently. Some sit at the table for long periods of time, and others wander by and place one or two pieces, are satisfied, and move on. Some poke around for certain pieces, some act like they are racing the clock, and some spend their time sorting the pieces by color.
Joanna Gaines in her Magnolia magazine last month wrote in her article Piece by Piece: “Though every person’s process varies, the end goal is the same: to take a bunch of seemingly random pieces and fit them together until the picture of what you’re building comes into focus …. Like a puzzle, our lives are made up of a bunch of pieces that fit together to make us who we are.”
At Garden Terrace Senior Apartments, we have more than 150 residents, volunteers and staff who fit together and make up the picture that is our 3-D puzzle — a caring senior community. And although a cardboard puzzle never changes, when it loses a few pieces, it does damage the picture. But when we lose a piece or pieces of the puzzle that is Garden Terrace, we simply add a new piece (resident, volunteer or staff), and complete the picture again, only now it’s a little different.
Over the nearly 50 years that Garden Terrace has served North Central Washington seniors, every single one of the people pieces that make up our puzzle has changed. Over 800 senior residents, over 80 staff people, and over 60 board members have spent senior moments at some time in our puzzle. Like a living organism that over its lifetime replaces all its cells multiple times, Garden Terrace has grown into a similar looking but altogether new being over its lifetime.
Our current bunch of seemingly random people fit together to make us who we are. It’s not that puzzling. It’s awesome.
Kenneth E. Neher is executive director of the Garden Terrace senior living community, for whom he writes “Senior Moments.” These columns periodically appear in The Wenatchee World.