I have not broken one single rule in my entire life…. Liar, liar, pants on fire! When we are young, we break rules all the time. Many times they’re rules that we haven’t learned yet. Others are broken to learn how much we can test the limits around us.
But as we grow into adults, we learn that rules are important for a society to function, or for own safety (Don’t run into the street). Just like the Ten Commandments, rules bring order and guidance for people to behave in a way that improves themselves and those around them. House rules, Robert’s Rules, game rules, rules of the road, The Golden Rule, all these and others have been created so that groups of people are able to interact with each other with positive outcomes and avoid chaos.
Once we know and learn to follow the rules, things generally run along pretty smoothly, and most people are content knowing their life is under control to some extent.
However, as I spend more and more time with the seniors at Garden Terrace, I have come to notice an interesting dynamic. Some seniors look for ways to break the rules. Whether it is smoking at the edge of the property rather than off the property, parking in the loading zone when not unloading, not reporting family members when they spend the night, or parking an unused car in the resident lot, I’m reevaluating my assumption that they do these things for sport or to gain attention.
Our people as they have aged have lost many things. For some it is health, others friends and family, others have had to give up many of their possessions, even their homes. Most of the time these are circumstances beyond their control. So I’m beginning to think that some of the “rule breakers” are simply searching for a sense of control in a life with little control. That gives me an opportunity to have extra grace for them when required. (But residents of GT, that doesn’t mean the rules are less important to follow for our orderly existence together! And remember, others are quick to point out your faults.)
All of our senior moments will be much better if we can find better and constructive ways to put some control back in our lives. Who wants to lead a round of “Simon Says?”
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.